I read your comment piece yesterday and have some thoughts for you.
The sense I get from your piece is that you are playing a weak hand. The sense I get is that the ship is taking on water and is in peril. You are doing what you can to minimize the negative cash flow but until your profits from ADN on-line offset the losses at ADN print it is a holding pattern at best. This has got to be a serious situation because the cuts you are making go right to the bone.
One area where I feel you might take the initiative and fight back for the health of the paper is to try to increase subscriptions and readership by reaching out to the more conservative elements of our community (if elections mean anything, they represent something like half of Anchorage). I miss the back and forth between the Voice of the Times and the News. I liked seeing them take their best shots at each other. It was good for each side to know there was someone ready to challenge their every move and position. The punch and counter punch made for good reading and provided a more thorough vetting of the issues. It gave me a lot more to think about as I made my own evaluations. This was a great service to the community.
I think ADN wanted to keep some semblance of this post VOT but it isn't working so well. In terms of hard-nosed journalism, the VOT editors struck hard every day and were much more effective than Dan Fagan. I'm not suggesting a return to VOT for a lot of reasons, but ADN might consider a more effective embrace of the conservative perspective for the purpose of engendering interest and increasing readership.
Lots of folks will pay to see a good fight between matched contenders. Not many will watch lopsided match-ups, and that is where your editorial section is today.
This isn't just about politics, its business. It is about readers, ads, income and survival.
Anyway, carry on and good luck. I don't want a future without my newspaper.
I don't want to seem disputatious, especially in the season of good will toward men, but you and I do see things differently.
First of all, if I am playing a weak hand, I don't know it. I think I have a good idea of the current state of the newspaper industry, but perhaps your analysis is more disinterested and objective than mine. I also have used a nautical metaphor, but rather than "taking on water and in peril," I tell my staff that we are in a ship in a storm, and that the key is to keep our heads until the storm passes. My company's cash flow is no where close to negative. Our cash flow margins remain high, just not as high as they used to be, and we are concerned about the downward trend, especially on top of a weak economy.
When you refer to cuts, I assume you mean some of the changes to the paper, like fewer stock listings. I'm not sure why, but I seem to be having trouble getting some print readers, and you may be one, to understand just how much the Daily News has expanded online. Those are not cuts, they are additions. We are reallocating many resources from print to online. You might as well say: Well, given all the expansion online, things must be going great. Either view is simplistic and not illuminating.
To underscore what I said in the column, our problem is not fundamentally one of audience. We have the largest audience in the history of the Daily News. In fact, to carry the superlative further, the Daily News has the largest audience that any news organization in Alaska has ever had.
I gather that you enjoyed reading the VOT. Some number of people did. However, when the VOT disappeared from the Daily News, the total number of subscribers who cancelled their subscriptions and gave the loss of the VOT as the principal reason was fewer than two dozen. I don’t think the VOT was much of a factor in our readership.
I am surprised that you remember a lot of give and take between the VOT and the Daily News, at least in the last six or seven years. The VOT writers sometimes took shots at us, but we rarely responded to them.
The interplay you think you remember between the VOT and the News is actually a daily reality right now. It is found in the reader comments on stories and blogs on the website. Authentic conservative members of the community take us to task pretty much every day. These are not the paid mouthpieces of an oil industry lobbying agency, but real Alaskans who question and quarrel with what is said and reported by the Daily News. Also online, we offer the "unfettered letters," where people can get published letters that did not pass muster for publication in print; writers say what they want, in as many words as they want.
Again, I must disagree with you. Dan Fagan is a much more thoughtful and effective writer than, say, Tom Brennan and his talking dog. To compare the two does Fagan a disservice. Was Bill Tobin's "Sunday Sundry" hard-hitting commentary? If you can identify a more competent, compelling local conservative writer, by all means send the name to my attention. We've looked hard ourselves.
In closing, let me reiterate, our problem is not one of audience. And if it were, I would not look to the remnant of a newspaper that failed the test of the market 15 years ago as a model solution.
We do indeed have financial issues, which I am confident we will surmount in time. But if you have an idea how to get classified ads off the internet for free and back into the paper for money, that would certainly help.