I think it’s a good question, and one Montana newspapers probably don’t want to report. I mean, how often do you go around shouting that business is down?
Yeah, not that often. But that’s what people like me are for, fine bastions of democracy that will point out your inadequacies and shortcomings so you don’t have to. And considering this costs you nothing, it really is a great deal. There’s no such thing as bad advertising, right?
Anyways, how many newspapers are in Montana? I’m not sure, but you can find this cool list of Montana newspapers on Wikipedia, although then you’ve got to go through and figure out which are still operating and which are but aren’t on the list and…shit, isn’t that what newspapers are paid to do?
So herein we have a dilemma, and another because most ‘respectable’ folks consider Wikipedia not worth wiping their backsides with. Thankfully we have Mondotimes, which aside from the terrible name is a website that tracks national newspapers, and does a pretty good job of giving us stats on newspapers in Montana.
I could go on more and more about my sources, but let’s not and say we did and just look at some damn papers, huh?
Lee Enterprises owns 5 newspapers in Montana, and it’s a huge publishing company that churns out 46 daily newspapers across 22 states, as well as 300 of those classified catalog things you see in restaurant foyers but never pick up, according to their financial statements, the financials that is.
According to Wikipedia, the company had 23.2 million visitors to their various websites from mobile users, accounting for 209 million page views. Daily readership is 1.34 million, with the St. Louis Post Dispatch getting the lion’s share of that, or 191,631 daily readers.
This makes Lee Enterprises the 5th largest newspaper chain in America. Ahead of it on the list compiled by Pew Research are:
- Gannet with 80 daily newspapers and 4.85 million readers;
- MediaNews Group with 63 daily newspapers and 3.09 million readers;
- News Corp with but 2 daily newspapers and 2.61 million readers;
- McClatchy Company with 30 daily newspapers and 2.1 million readers;
- Advance Publications with 19 daily newspapers and 1.4 million readers.
After Lee Enterprises in Montana we get into Gannett and Pioneer, two companies that own the other newspapers, or at least most of the ones you know. You see, we’re going to have to start making a distinction between the daily papers and the weekly or even quarterly papers. All pack their own punch, as do the state’s blogs, which will be talked about as well.
Other than that, well, I’m not that fond of it at times. The Missoulian has 66,700 daily readers, but what’s really astounding is that Mondotimes totally undercuts Wikipedia and lists the figure at 25,439 for the circulation. Readers, circulation, distribution…what the hell’s the difference? Don’t ask me.
The Billings Gazette
There’s not a whole lot else to say about it, other than gosh, I thought they had more.
The Great Falls Tribune
Still, that’s a lot of readers, and they did win a Pulitzer in 2000 for a series of stories on alcohol. I’d be interested to know who that reporter was and where they’re at now.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
What’s more, the paper is owned by Pioneer News Group, which is based out of Seattle and has about two dozen papers in the Pacific Northwest, including the Belgrade News, Lone Peak Lookout, and West Yellowstone New in Montana, besides the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. They began operating in 1974 and were known as Pioneer Newspapers until last January.
The Montana Standard
Now let’s do some math, huh? Those 206,207 page views come to 6,873 people a day, if you divide by 30 days. I’ll let you think what you will on that, especially after you read the section on Montana blogs below.
The Helena Independent Record
Perhaps many agree, as the IR has just 14,000 daily readers…although that stat comes from way back in 2005. According to Mondotimes they’re only getting 12,464 readers today.
It’s a sad trend you see in most of Montana’s dailies, and the nation. Can you blame Lee Enterprises when they took over from Anaconda in 1959? I don’t really think so. Might be better to blame death, and the loyal newspaper readers it takes each year. Like many of those outsourced jobs, they’re not coming back.
The Ravalli Republic
Or maybe it just means that Montana newspapers need to be more open about how many people read their work. It’s hard as hell finding any kind of ‘About Us’ page on these sites, mainly because they’re so cluttered with advertising.
The Havre Daily News
The thing with this paper, however, is they have some “award winning” staff, according to Wikipedia. I don’t know – I don’t read it. Maybe I should put it on my bookmark bar and get my free-10-a-month, huh?
Montana Senior News
Yep, they put out just 6 issues a year and that costs people $10 a year, and that means we’re transitioning into the non-daily newspapers, of which this is the largest.
Owner Jack Love started the Montana Senior News in 1983 and focused on the Golden Triangle area of the state, but since then it’s really grown. While it relies heavily on classifieds, it’s grown to include many articles that pertain to seniors. And gosh, we’ve got a lot of them in Montana.
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Don’t underestimate the power of this newspaper. Most daily papers are thrown out each day or at least once a week. This sucker sits on a coffee table for two months and is looked through many times. That message gets across…and that’s a good thing because more and more it might just be quickly forgotten by this paper’s target audience.
The Missoula Independent
I do know that on Wikipedia the circulation of the Missoula Independent is listed at 41,000, a stat they pulled in August of 2012. So gosh darn, in just two years the paper’s halved their readership, huh? Who knows, the same piece lists the readership at 19,000, so maybe it’s grown. The paper is free, so it’s always hard to tell. It's certainly the hippest and coolest paper in the state, if those things aren't oxymorons.
The Flathead Beacon
Well, let’s be frank – all of Montana’s newspapers are run by out-of-stater’s…at least these two are living here.
So how many people read the damn thing? Well, it’s hard to say – in 2010 it was 20,000 according to a Missoulian article, and according to Mondotimes it’s getting 25,000 today. That’s pretty damn good for Flathead Citizen, LLC…the company that officially owns the paper. But you have to figure that it’s given away for free each week as well, like the Missoula Independent.
And is that such a bad thing? They obviously can pay their reporters, keep the lights on, and get people the stories they want to hear. And they’ve been doing so for the better part of a decade. See, that advertising revenue can go a long way if you do things right. I can’t help but think that many Montana newspapers will have to follow this model eventually, and I can’t help but think many are kicking and screaming and dragging their feet to keep that from happening.
National and Global Newspaper Readership
The largest daily newspaper in the country is The Wall Street Journal, with a circulation of 2.3 million. It makes a pretty penny for owner News Corp, or should I say Rupert Murdoch?
Next we’ve got The New York Times at #2 with 1.8 million readers a day and then USA Today at #3 with 1.6 million. The Washington Post comes in at #7 on the list and has 474,767 readers each day while the Chicago Tribune comes in at #10 with just under 415,000 readers.
Still, The Wall Street Journal is only the 9th most read newspaper in the world, with Japan holding 4 of the top 5 spots and Asia holding 6 of the top 10. Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun gets 10 million readers a day while the competing Asahi Shimbun gets but 8 million. Coming in at #3 is The Times of India, with a measly 2.9 million in comparison. Anyone that’s traveled in the region will tell you there’s a newspaper kiosk on damn near every corner.
The Bottom Line
Lee Enterprises, on the other hand, is a different story entirely. Here we’ve got a company with a negative net income for two of the past four quarters. What’s more, the company recorded a loss of $142 million at the end of the 3rd quarter last year…pitiful. They’re pulling in a gross profit of around $160 million a quarter but they have expenses exceeding $130 million each quarter and the rest of that is usually eaten up by taxes. Folks, this is a company on the rocks, it doesn’t take an MBA to see that.
Pioneer News Group is privately owned so they don’t have to list their financials, although a look at E.W. Scripps Company’s $1.1 billion in revenue in 2007 might give you a good idea, considering the Scripps family started that company and now owns Pioneer. To complicate matters, there was a deal in June with Journal Communications (owner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) to merge operations by 2015.
That could be bad for employees in Montana, if they’re tied up in this, which I have no idea if they are or not. The company certainly seems to be doing better than Lee Enterprises, that’s for sure.
Blog Readership in Montana
- First we have MT Cowgirl, which many would argue is the most influential blog. They get around 35,000 visits and about 55,000 page views a month. MT Cowgirl has an Alexa rating of #195,150 in the US, which means that’s the overall ranking of that site in America over the last 3 months based on the number of visitors to it, or traffic. Confused? It’s alright.
- Next is Intelligent Discontent, which doesn’t have a stats meter like MT Cowgirl, but which does have an Alexa ranking of #148,748.
- After that we’ve got Flathead Memo, with an Alexa ranking of…well, it has no ranking in the US, which means it’s not getting enough traffic. The global ranking for the site is #11.2 million, and for comparison’s sake, MT Cowgirl ranked #893,969 for that while Intelligent Discontent ranked #641,553.
- A lot of people discount Mediatrackers because they’re Republican, but they get an Alexa ranking in the US of #72,758.
- Montana Watchdog is another people don’t like, and they get a ranking of #9,838 for the US and #53,853 for the world…pretty damn good.
- Here in Missoula we’ve got 4&20 Blackbirds and they get an Alexa ranking of…#7.9 million in the world, pretty bad, though not as bad as James Conner’s site.
- And how about me? Big Sky Words gets an Alexa ranking of #191,970 in the US and #381,043 in the world. According to my website service provider Weebly, I get around 75,000 visitors a month and Google Analytics says I get 5,235 users a month and 10,774 page views directly from them, which I consider the gold standard, other than direct marketing.
Still, you have to consider that half of those people are coming to this site for things other than Montana, and half of them are only interested in Montana history, not current Montana politics…I think.
Now instead of relying on a large mining company they’re relying on anyone that’ll give them advertising money – they’re shrinking readership ensures this. This can create conflicts of interest, especially around election season.
Blogs in Montana are free of this, at least paid advertising. You won’t see any candidates paying Montana bloggers because it wouldn’t be effective. That could all change in a few more election cycles. Maybe it has already.