Thursday, April 06, 2006

Could another paper be in Houston's future?

Now that Philip Anschutz has put a Major League Soccer team in Houston, you have to wonder if he's thinking of starting a free Monday-through-Friday newspaper in the country's fourth largest city.

Yesterday, Anschutz, a Denver billionaire, started delivering 250,000 free newspapers to selected neighborhoods around Baltimore, which, like most American cities, including Houston, is a one newspaper town.

The Baltimore Sun isn't the Houston Chronicle, though. It's got 15 Pulitzer Prizes under its belt. The Chron doesn't have any P prizes yet, which its antagonists never fail to remind them.

Before he put a soccer team in H-Town, Anschutz and his minions undoubtedly collected reams of detailed information about the city.

Anschutz is an arch conservative politically and the Chron in recent years has taken a decided left turn in its editorial politics. Could that prove to be an enticing carrot to move into Houston one of these days?

Since the Chron has Houston to itself, one supposes there are quite a few advertisers who would jump at the chance to buy cheaper ads, especially since the Hearst property rubbed a number of people the wrong way by jacking up its ad rates as soon as it bought out the rival Houston Post in 1995.

Ten-plus years of monopolized newspaper ad rates have a way of sticking in the craw of the merchant class.

In Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun charges $17K for a full-page ad while Anschutz's Examiner is charging a mere $2,900.

Of course, there's no assurance that Anschutz, who has trademarked the Examiner name in 60 cities, including Houston, will succeed in his bold newspaper adventure.

The Wall Street Journal story that is linked below says the quality of Anschutz's freebie publications doesn't approach that of the established newspapers with which he's competing, but remember that two of the papers he's taken on have storied histories (The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post) while the Houston Chronicle's history is decidedly less, uh, storied.

The newspaper business at this moment in time is depressed.

The Hearst Corp., which is privately owned, didn't bother to join the suitors for the recently sold Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, so it's reasonable to assume the company suits in New York are more interested in the future of TV and magazine properties rather than newspapers.

Hearst's newspaper in Seattle, The Post Intelligencer, appears ready to collapse should an arbitrator rule against it in its war with the number one paper in that city, while the Hearst paper in San Francisco continues to bleed money, too. The Houston Chronicle, of course, is a cash cow, but it, too, is losing readers, as are most newspapers in the country, and it is tightening its belt via personnel cutbacks on a regular basis.

Depending on how the Baltimore experiment goes, Anschutz might view Houston as the next logical market to invade.

If nothing else, the Chron's recent mangling of the name of Anschutz's soccer league might be reason enough to put a burr under the saddle of the dowdy Houston daily.
[wall st. journal]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well you know Cohen its about obtaining a Pulitzer Prize that’s what it is all about with that “word wizard” Forget the reader’s if it means destroying the paper to get it so be it .

Reminds me Cylde Perterson left in January they brought in some hot shot cartoonist I heard who has a Pulitzer from the rumors i heard.

People I know From advertising and friends that left say the only real competition is Houston Community News papers a consortium of papers that cover all the regions of the city. I don’t really know much about them other than there biggest paper there Flagship paper is the Pasadena Citizen and I’ve been told they picked up the contract to Print USA today for the Houston area that was awhile back its growing force but has along way to go