How newspapers keep printing

Newspapers don't run on air, or "No bucks, no Buck Rogers!"

It’s not often you can catch me by surprise, but it happens. In the oddest way: a few weeks ago, I was asked how newspapers were “funded.”

Now, that’s something that I thought would be obvious to everyone. A store gets its revenue from its customers, and so does a newspaper. They sell a shoe, a pound of potatoes, a camera – we sell advertising.

Those who don’t care how a newspaper operates can move on to the Letters section now.

Every week (or every day for the dailies still out there) we run the same basic ration of news copy to ads. We need to at least break even, although Black Press, our company, likes us to do a little more than that.

Economics 101 – picture each page as a pricing unit. We base our costs (staff, printing, paper, postage, etc.) on each page being filled with a certain amount of advertising. But, because of the way newspapers are printed – four pages at a time, sometimes we have to increase that ratio and skirt the edge of poverty. Such as, if we have enough advertising to cover 10 pages, but we still have to run 12 pages.

Although they don’t ask us where the “funding” comes from, people often comment on the size of the paper. Here’s the answer: it all depends on the advertising we receive from week to week. If we have enough advertising to run 16 or 20 pages, we do. If we can only afford to run 12 pages, so be it.

Unfortunately, when times are tough for our business customers, they don’t advertise as much, making times difficult for us as well.

A publisher that I worked for many years ago told me that a drop in advertising was a sure sign of poor economic times, and that observation has certainly held up over the years.

Good times, bad times, they come and go as all of us are well aware of. Right at this moment… well, it’s been better.

When we ask everyone to shop “at home” – or as much at home as they can, it’s because we’re an “at home” business as well and we rely on local business – AND you, our readers,  to keep us going.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

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