Tag Archives: Advance Publications

EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News drops 10.8 percent in weekday print circulation

birmingham news building

Newspaper down 8.4 percent on Sundays

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but newspapers are losing print readers by the tens of thousands. In this morning’s report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, publications across the country reported double-digit declines.

The report measures circulation from daily newspapers, comparing April through September 2009 with the same period in 2008.

Media of Birmingham has learned that the Birmingham News dropped 10.8 percent in weekday circulation, from about 131,095 copies to 116,937 copies. This was slightly worse than the national average of 10.6 percent lost.

On Sundays, the News dropped 8.4 percent, from about 163,803 copies to 150,044 copies. The national average was 7.4 percent.

The News’ publisher Victor Hanson III retires in just over a month; layoffs could come as soon as February.

Meanwhile, the Mobile Press-Register defied the odds, gaining 0.75 percent in overall circulation in the same period from 2008 to 2009. The boost, from about 92,158 to 92,849, placed the newspaper in the Top 10 circulation gainers.

More good news comes from the online side.

When combining print and online readership from the past 7 and 30 days respectively, the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register landed in the Top 25 gainers. The News showed a 4.48 percent jump, and the Press-Register increased 6.13 percent, compared to the same period in 2008.

Advance Publications owns both newspapers.

Our special thanks to Jennifer Saba at Editor and Publisher. Read her blog Fitz & Jen or follow her on Twitter at @jennifersaba.

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More changes at the top for the Birmingham News

Publisher retires, but what’s next?

Back in August, we reported that Advance Publications gave oversight responsibilities for the Birmingham News to new president Ricky Mathews. It appears that may have precipitated the latest major shakeup at the News, with publisher Victor Hanson III retiring Dec. 1. No word yet as to who will be tapped to replace him.

Hanson, the fourth family member to serve as publisher, will retire at age 53 after 8 years at the top position. He’s not the only Advance publisher leaving: Fred A. Stickel of the Oregonian in Portland retired in September at age 87 after 35 years. (Hat tip Inside Out McwFlint.)

One definite ripple effect from Mathews’ hire is a lawsuit by former (Mobile) Press-Register publisher Howard Bronson against Advance:

Bronson said Newhouse officials in July 2009 reneged on a longstanding job security pledge for the paper’s employees and in August told him that he had two weeks to leave.

A message left with Mark Newhouse was not immediately returned.

Lagniappe, Mobile’s alternative newspaper, has more details on Bronson’s lawsuit.

Media of Birmingham broke the story about Advance’s ending of the no-layoffs policy, often called the Newhouse Pledge. A former Press-Register reporter offers his take on the pledge’s demise.

Who will take over the News, Alabama’s largest newspaper? And will the News and Press-Register begin layoffs in February when the pledge expires?

Personnel changes at the Birmingham News

Including a change at the top

A few personnel changes at the Birmingham News of note:

Ian R. RapoportIan R. Rapoport, University of Alabama sports beat reporter, is headed to his hometown to cover the New England Patriots for the Boston Herald. He writes on his final News blog post:

“In fact, the past three seasons spent covering Nick Saban — and Alabama football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and everything else — for The Birmingham News have been crazy, unpredictable, and incredibly rewarding.

“I had a blast.”

Scott Stantis• Editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis is headed to the Chicago Tribune. New WBHM-FM contributor Tim Lennox broke the story on his blog. Stantis writes on his News blog:

“It has been a great 13 years. Everything from Tinker Fob to Jimmy Blake to Bettye Fine to LaLa and every crazy thing in between. It has been my great honor to cartoon for the people of Birmingham, Jefferson County and Alabama. I hope you have liked it as much as I have.”

kurt-vanotsky-mugKurt Vantosky is the new vice president of advertising. He was previously at the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune and the Anchorage Daily News. He told the News:

“I think the strong editorial commitment — its history and its continued belief of being the voice of the community — drew me to The Birmingham News.”

Ricky Mathews• Perhaps most intriguing is this item, sent to us by a News insider. Birmingham native Ricky Mathews is the new president and publisher of two Advance Publications properties, the (Mobile) Press-Register and the Mississippi Press in Pascagoula. (Amusingly enough, his name is misspelled in the announcement story.) He served in the same capacity at the Sun Herald in Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss.

But his job description doesn’t end there, as Mathews will also serve in a newly created position …

“Mathews was also named president of Advance Alabama/Mississippi and will assume oversight responsibility for the Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times, in addition to the Press-Register and Mississippi Press.”

What, if anything, does this mean for the ailing Birmingham News? Can anyone weigh in?

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EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News could face layoffs by February

Owner Advance Pubs ends long-standing no-layoffs policy

Advance Publications’ Newhouse Newspapers will end its policy of no layoffs, announcing the change to staffs today, including the Birmingham News. The pledge ends in six months, meaning the staff at the News (as well as the Press-Register in Mobile and the Huntsville Times) could face layoffs by February.

Media of Birmingham has learned that staffers with at least 5 years at the Birmingham News were offered buyouts, two weeks salary for every year (six month maximum).

In June, the News cut salaries 5 percent to 8 percent, ended furloughs and offered a round of buyouts.

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Birmingham News cutting back

Birmingham News

Birmingham News

Also: Newhouse shutting down wire service

Some are calling 2008 the worst year ever for newspapers, citing declines in ad revenues.

Like many newspapers this year, the Birmingham News is trimming its operations by offering buyouts and early retirement to employees:

The Birmingham News Co. is offering voluntary buyouts or early retirement to a limited number of employees, Publisher Victor Hanson III said Friday. The issue is revenue, not readership, Hanson stressed. “Our readership is as high as it has been since 2004, and our online home at al.com is the most-visited local Web site in Alabama,” he said. The number of buyouts will depend on how many employees accept the offer, he said, but it will be limited by department and job category to protect the essential missions of the newspaper to inform and serve the community.

Meanwhile, Newhouse News Service is shutting down after Election Day.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Newhouse News Service, a supplemental wire service founded in 1961, will close on Nov. 7, after the election.

The news service is also the Washington bureau of Advance Publications Inc. of New York, which owns 26 daily newspapers.

“The decision to close followed the direction of our clients, the editors of our papers,” said Linda Fibich, editor and Washington bureau chief. “They felt they could not afford to pay for a central Washington bureau at a time when they were steering all available resources to local coverage back at home.”

The news service has 24 employees. Of those, 11 are reporters who write for specific newspapers and “are being offered opportunities to join the staffs of those newspapers,” Fibich said. “Whether the individual papers maintain a presence in Washington is up to each individual paper.”

Advance Publications owns both the wire service and the Birmingham News. Fortunately, Washington correspondent Mary Orndorff will continue her beat for the News, even as NNS folds.