Said veteran newspaper industry analyst Ed Atorino of Benchmark Capital: “You do get a story once in a while about a local storeowner, or a closing or something, which you might miss. But most of what's in those sections is rip and read [wire service copy],” he said. “With all the business news on TV and the Internet, the consumer is getting it someplace else.”
Those moves would seem to be a boon to publishers of local business journals, who compete aggressively against dailies for breaking news, but publishers of those books say the sections had so little advertising in the first place that there's not much to be gained by their absence.
“It really doesn't have an effect on us one way or the other,” Denver Business Journal Publisher Scott Bemis said of the Denver Post's move to eliminate its stand-alone section on weekdays. “The reason they couldn't justify it separately was they didn't have enough advertising.”
What little overlap there is between dailies and business journals, Bemis said, is in local b-to-b ads and high-end retail, which doesn't necessarily fall in the business section of a daily newspaper.
The demise of the stand-alone business section can be clearly traced to the shifting of stock tables online by many papers during the last few years, and that space generally has been eliminated to save newsprint expenses rather than filled with additional business coverage.
A study by Arizona State University's National Center for Business Journalism found that about 75% of daily newspapers today run, on average, one page or less of business news a day, and only one in eight daily papers runs a stand-alone section.
In addition to the large papers in Denver and Orange County, others that have cut their standalone sections include the Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal and Cincinnati Enquirer; Reno (Nev.) Gazette- Journal; and Monterey (Calif.) Herald. In most cases, the sections continued to exist in smaller formats, consolidated into other sections.
Syndicated Chicago Tribune business columnist Andrew Leckey, who runs the ASU program, said the editorial impact of the section consolidations is limited because business news has gradually leaked into other pages. Front pages, he noted, have been dominated in recent weeks by stories about the mortgage crisis, a potential recession, Super Bowl spots and even box-office returns. “Business news makes it into the other sections more than it used to,” he said.
Andrea Mathewson, publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal, which merged its weekday business section into the sports section, said the advertising impact has been minimal. “There really wasn't much support for the stand-alone anyhow,” she said.
Jeremy Mullman is a reporter for Advertising Age, a sibling publication of BtoB.