Monday, January 17, 2005

METRO MARKET WATCH. There appears to be a lull in the Metro wars today, so I thought I'd take a closer look at what is likely to be the most enduring issue: the matter of whether the New York Times Company's acquisition of a 49 percent share of Boston's Metro constitutes a violation of antitrust laws.

Let me hasten to add that you won't find out the answer to that question here. Rather, I want to show that the Greater Boston newspaper market is a lot more complicated than either the Globe or the Herald has portrayed it so far.

According to reports, Herald publisher Pat Purcell, who has taken his antitrust complaint to the Justice Department, is defining the market as comprising three daily papers: the Globe, the Herald, and the Metro. Let's look at the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Because the Metro publishes only on weekdays, I'm only going to look at Monday-through-Friday numbers

  • Globe: 451,471
  • Herald: 240,759
  • Metro: 180,000 (est.)

Under this formulation, the Globe controls 52 percent of the market; the Herald, 28 percent; and the Metro, 20 percent. Purcell notes that allowing the deal to move forward will give the Times Company 72 percent, which, he argues, violate guidelines governing anti-competitive behavior.

In fact, though, Purcell could paint the picture in broader strokes. If you consider the entire Eastern Massachusetts market, the Times Company also owns the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, whose weekday circulation is 103,113. Purcell's Community Newspaper subsidiary owns four daily papers with a total weekday circulation of 50,608: the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham), the Daily News Tribune (Waltham); the Daily News Transcript (Dedham); and the Milford Daily News. That gives Purcell's Herald Media a total daily circulation of 291,367.

(Note: the ABC report for the MetroWest Daily News appears to combine the other three dailies, but that's not entirely clear. Nevertheless, the 291,367 figure matches up closely with a total daily circulation figure that appears on page 12 of Herald Media's online media kit. PDF file here. So if I'm off, it's not by much.)

Let's run the numbers again. Under this formulation, the Times Company's weekday circulation (the Globe, the T&G, and the Metro) would be 734,584, or 72 percent of the total daily newspaper market. Herald Media would control 28 percent (the Herald plus the four suburban dailies). With that exercise, the numbers look exactly the same.

But wait. In statements filed with ABC, Purcell says that the paid circulation of his weekly papers is 233,679. On the Herald Media website, he claims a weekly circulation of 517,242. The lower figure would appear to be for his paid, community-based weeklies (there are 89, though some are free); the higher number apparently includes all of his weekly holdings, which also comprise 21 shoppers and specialty publications.

How do Purcell's weekly papers affect his antitrust argument? It's hard to say. To be sure, it's an apples-and-oranges comparison, but when you factor in the weeklies as part of Purcell's holdings, there's no question that the Times Company - though still dominant - doesn't look quite as fearsome. The weeklies are a big business for Purcell, with considerable economies of scale in terms of shared expenses and the cross-selling of advertising.

Now let's go a little deeper. In their public statements about the Metro deal, Times Company spokeswoman Catherine Mathis and Globe publisher Richard Gilman have referred to Greater Boston as the most competitive newspaper market in the country. Whether that's technically accurate or not, it is certainly true that there are more options here than in many parts of the country. Here, for instance, are a few ABC figures for other daily newspaper groups in Eastern Massachusetts:

  • Ottaway Newspapers: the Standard-Times (New Bedford) and the Cape Cod Times; total weekday circulation, 85,313.
  • South of Boston Media Group: the Patriot Ledger (Quincy) and the Enterprise (Brockton); total weekday circulation, 92,228.
  • Eagle-Tribune Publishing: the Eagle-Tribune (Lawrence), the Salem News, the Daily News (Newburyport), and the Gloucester Daily Times; total weekday circulation, 105,524.
  • MediaNews Group: the Sun (Lowell) and the Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg); total weekday circulation, 67,151.

There are small, independently owned dailies sprinkled across Eastern Massachusetts as well. One, the Daily Evening Item (Lynn), whose circulation is 14,764, is a content partner with Herald Media through the paper's affiliation with Purcell's And some of the aforementioned newspaper owners are formidable. Ottaway, for instance, is part of the Dow Jones empire, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, in some ways the New York Times' archnemesis. MediaNews is a national chain headed by the colorful, notorious Dean Singleton. His flagship paper, the Denver Post, is edited by former Globe managing editor Greg Moore.

There's no question that the Times Company is the dominant media organization in New England, never mind Eastern Massachusetts. In addition to the Globe and the T&G, it owns a piece of New England Sports Network through its part-ownership of the Red Sox. The Globe is also a content partner with New England Cable News. Adding the local Metro to its portfolio will make the strong stronger.

Nevertheless, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is far more complex than the tale of Boston's two dailies.


Anonymous said...

Yep.... But your circulation numbers don't tell the whole story...The New York Times Co does indeed have a disproportionate influence over New England's print media... Yeah, we can throw in New Hampshire's Union Leader and the Seattle Times owned Portland Press Herald....throw in Radio and TV too...And the Christian Science Monitor and your Phoenix to boot.

But the fact remains...Should we lose the Boston Herald, Boston will be a much poorer place, intellectually, as a one newspaper city.

As a media critic of some influence, you should back a diversity of media outlets...You of all people should be at the barricades...


Anonymous said...

Dan - add the "Lowell Sunrise" morning news show on WUML to MediaNews's holdings. Technically it's radio - but in listening to it, it seems to be mostly just rip-n-read straight from the Sun's pages.

And I gotta say, normally I come away from your posts feeling like I have a better grip on the situation. Today my head just hurts and I'm more confused than ever. I don't think this is a comment on your writing skills, though...this is just a really frickin' complex situation.

- Aaron Read

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in seeing a list of all the other 'small, independently-owned dailies' in Eastern Massachusetts. I know there's one in Medford, though I have no idea why it exists.

Anonymous said...

Lots of "old" media types have been attempting to wring profits out of suburban papers for years with little success. Ottaway has sold many of the papers they bought around the country, after profits eluded them. The Ledger/Enterprise is hanging on by a thread despite being in the fastest-growing part of the state. If the Herald were making any money in the suburbs, would not the Globe(Times) have already set up me-too operations? I say we should give some sort of legislative favoritism to whatever promotes media diversity. I slant right but the idea of living in a one-newspaper town scares the hell out of me, whatever the editorial view. (If you think the Globe is arrogant now, imagine if they put the Herald under?)

Anonymous said...

All of this extended point-by-point coverage (in here, anyway) regarding the Metro vs. Herald feudin' is hilarious. The Metro is hardly worthy of the title 'newspaper' and is scarcely fit to wipe our butts with.

Additionally, reading the Herald 'for a different perspective’ is about as plausible, interesting and feasible as turning your TV upside-down and watching it tied to a Clockwork-Orange 'harnessed' reclining chair – hoping fruitlessly that you have enough aspirin stored in the medicine cabinet to endure viewing it.

Many Bostonians probably could not LIVE without grasping either paper in their hands each day – hoping to find out all about the newest anal warts growing on the British royalty or whether or not Mike Barnacle still loves cops and copying (or which politician plucks Howie Carr's thumb out of their buttocks that day).

Still it is interesting that Danny K has opted to provide such wall-to-wall coverage of this insignificant and inconsequential fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Anon. #6 just made my point- anyone who denigrates ANY competition or ideas must be afraid of them. If you like the way #6 thinks, you're going to LOVE Boston as a one-paper town. Me, I read the Projo, national papers, anything I can get in addition to Boston papers. (Probably why God gave us two eyes and ears but only one mouth).

Don M.F.H. said...

You forgot the Journal Register Co., which owns the Fall River Herald News and the Taunton Daily Gazette.

Anonymous said...

Yo, anon 5:46, haven't you noticed that deekay's Metro postings have provoked quite a bit of reader comments? BG vs. BH is a big deal for anybody in Eastern Massachusetts with an interest in media. As a very small example, think of the Globe's boycott of WEEI.

Anonymous said...

Enough Already!

I have so much respect for you Dan and your blog is a must stop for me daily but I can't quite grasp why you are obcessing about this so much.
I understand that YOU were instrumental in getting the papers to comment on this first but please, no body cares.
I do care that big media companies NOT be allowed to control higher stakes in media markkets and across different media types, but this is NOT as big of a deal. This is not like NYTCO or Murdoch controlling newspapers, radio stations and TV outlets in the area.

FAR from!

This is a tale of THREE newspapers, two of which are helplessly irrelevant.

The Globe is a good paper, influential and the one that is most deserving of the descriptive 'newspaper.' Although, it has its low points occasionally. Far from perfect but a worthy paper.

The other two rags are as useless as Shannon O'brien. The Herald has had to wrestle with the musical chairs in retaining people within its ranks from journalist to editors to even buyers/subscribers. It has been on a downward spiral and apart from a couple of scoops, has been largely an irrelevant and vaccuous rag for fascists like Howie Carr to sound off. They tried skin, T&A, full tabloid and it still doesn't work. Oh, not to forget the fabulous addition of annoying and pompous not to mention discredited Barnicle.

The only reason the Herald's doors are still open is because of its SPORTS section and journalists that branched off to radio, cable and network outlets and keep it in people's mind, having ridden recent New New England sport successes. Cosmo Macero taking over the business section , however promising it was made to sound, has still to make ANY impact or buzz at all.

The Metro is a rag consisting of 500 daily stories written in two or three sentences and 80% of the paper space is filled with mostly irrelevant ads and medical research wanted ads. More established companies have started using Metro ads like classless AlphaOmega but the demographics are very narrow and is not suitable for a lot of advertising niches. People pick up the Metro because it happens to be there on commuter points. Whether its impact is any significant is yet TBD. When I read it, I tune out the ads instinctively because by association the journalistic content I am looking at is very irrelevant to the point of being insulting and useless.

So please tell me what's the big deal here?

No big gain, no big loss.

There are things the Globe and the Herald could do in style and coverage that could cement their credibility and following better than a gimmick of a newspaper operation tied to a train schedule.

I understand the income generated by the Metro is a lure for either paper to jump on the segment and opportunity, but Metro's success is more indicative of both papers failings and the void they left. Why haven't they had better presence along the very crowded New England commuter corridors before for starters, with lower prices or giveaways to increase their circulations and therefore their agency rates???

Now they are jockeying for a simple operation that moved in out of nowhere??

The Herald has a lot of inhouse cleaning and self-examination before it whines publicly and in courts. The day it goes bankrupt is a great day in Mass History.
It is very crucial to have two counterbalancing papers in town, for accountability and maximum coverage chances but the Herald is worthless. It is an embarrasing end result of the morphing of successive Newspapers in Boston History.

Dan, you have many colleagues in the Herald and I would never imagine you agreeing with my viewpoint. After all, how could you see Joe Sciacca, another bigotted fascist media thug, in the eye on the set of Greater Boston if you did???

The Herald had some great roles in uncovering a lot of mob activity, local corruption cases, Church scandals and important details and many other stories. I can still imagine a Massachusetts without the Herald. I can't say the same about the Globe, however flawed it is.

So, for the Herald, this public tantrum is an exercise in futility and your obcessing about it by extension is the first time I have seen you dwell on a subject for so long, so hard with no appearent big gain for us your fans, nor your paper and blog.

Worse was their attempt to cast the NYTCO and the Globe as racist companies by buying a stupid company with insensitive under-developped adult executives who have no real sense of humor. Join the rest. The list of such companies is without a bottom. That does not make NYTCO complicit nor in need of an apology. 'Shows you how pathetic and desperate the Herald is.

You want a good story? How about this one splattered embarrassingly on the Wall Street Journal:

Why Can't Johnny Add?
Schoolkids in Newton, a Boston suburb, aren't measuring up in math tests, writes Tom Mountain in the Newton Tab. Thirty-two percent of sixth-graders are in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, and school officials are flummoxed:

The school department offered no tangible explanation for these declining scores other than to admit that they have no explanation, as articulated by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Carolyn Wyatt (salary $106,804), "[The results] have decreased, incrementally, each year and continue to puzzle us." She went on to admit that this downward trend is peculiar to Newton and "is not being seen statewide." Again, she offered no explanation, but she did assure the School Committee that her assistant, Math Coordinator Mary Eich (salary $101,399), is currently investigating the problem.

But according to Mountain, it turns out that between 1999 and 2001, Newton adopted an "anti-racist multicultural math" curriculum:

In 2001 [Superintendent Jeffrey] Young, Mrs. Wyatt and an assortment of other well-paid school administrators, defined the new number-one priority for teaching mathematics, as documented in the curriculum benchmarks, "Respect for Human Differences--students will live out the system wide core of 'Respect for Human Differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors."

It continues, "Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others . . ." It goes on and on.

"Nowhere among the first priorities for the math curriculum guidelines is the actual teaching of math," Mountain observes. "That's a distant second." It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out why Newton's kids are falling behind.

End of quote.

Our great state deserves better than this. Apart from some local newspaper stories, no one picked up on it until Fox news did and we all know how they like these negative stories to butcher our state with. Not even the Globe worte about it. You think they would have denounced the two $100k+ useless education hacks or the enigmatic and strange PC 'diversity' crap quoted as explanation??

Did I just touch on what ails these papers and keeps their hand planted in the sand???

If only they would be straight with us and give us the straight story and be straight with themselves and not continue on some obvious wrong paths, they wouldn't need a Metro.

If the Globe had developped its site much better, it could build a better following among younger readers with the resources it already has. Now, if you go on, all you see is a maze of numbing ads, links, pitches and overwhelming story links.

Clean it up, streamline it, make it more appealing and easy to use.

How hard is it for the Globe to print its own abbreviated but better written express version, using the printing set-up for its Calendar section and print up 10 pages of short stories about the news of the day and use its delivery infrastructure to deliver it to many targeted points?? A few Globe employees would still have a job today as opposed to having been downsized?? British Papers tried it in-house rather than buying a new paper and it has worked well.

Both papers are caught asleep at the wheel. We as readers should not feel bad for them. Your time is more valuable than on this story too, Dan.

Thank God for national papers and British papers to satisfy our cravings and kudos for the internet for bringing us free the Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, NY Times, WashPost, Le Monde, Christian Science Monitor, Scotsman, Sidney Morning Herald, Baltimore Sun and so many great other sources.

Thank God for Greater Boston for some serious coverage of most relevant local issues. I have no use for local gossip. (Well, maybe the local real estate transaction report in the Globe.)

Who needs the Herald??? I bet you they are lying about their circulations just like the New York tabloids are.

Maybe there is God and the Herald is closer to the brink than I thought. (ie 100k circulation level)


Anonymous said...

"clean it up and streamline it". Jeez, do you have any mirrors in your house?

Anonymous said...

Metro/Region section of the Globe is still 24-48 hours behind the competition, (e.g. W. Bridgewater snow plow fatality, etc.). They tried for a while but the reality is that they cover the West Bank and Northern Ireland better than they do Greater Boston. Castigating the Herald for insufficient depth is like turning off Tim Russert because he happens to be on Channel 7. Too much info is better than not enough. It would be nice if the Globe didn't treat some pieces as Master's theses, however, (for the writer rather than the reader, written by the "smartest kid in the room").

Anonymous said...

The WSJ quoting the Newton TAB is evidence that the Herald is useless? The Newton TAB is part of the Herald's CNC!


Anonymous said...

My friend Adam Gaffin posted this reaction to today's Herald front-page non-story:

Metrolicious!-- Ron Newman