New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times Go Back to Press

For the First Draft of History? Readers Line up Around the Block

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Newspapers savored their brightest day of sun for a long time today as readers lined up to buy copies reporting the historic results of yesterday's election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th U.S. president. Turns out that the making of history reminds people what it is they like about newsprint -- its permanence. Unfortunately for the newspaper industry, there aren't many days like Nov. 4, 2008.
The New York Times printed an extra 50,000 copies after newsstands and bookstores across the city sold out of editions.
The New York Times printed an extra 50,000 copies after newsstands and bookstores across the city sold out of editions.

The Washington Post may sell up to three times as many copies as normal, if you include sales from the 350,000 commemorative editions printed that followed a sellout for the regular edition, despite 30% more copies on the racks.

Not a moneymaker
It's not making the Post a ton of extra money, however, said Steve Hills, president and general manager of Washington Post Media. "Ninety percent of our dollars come from advertising," he said. "So it's really about the brand."

"There are things that the website can do that the paper can't do," Mr. Hills added. "And there are things that the newspaper can do that the website can't do. There is an authority to the paper and a lasting quality to the paper that is unique."

Elsewhere around the country, The New York Times printed an extra 50,000 copies after newsstands and bookstores across the city sold out of editions with the simple headline "Obama."

The Chicago Sun-Times sold out today's edition and printed another 150,000. "We are selling the extras so fast, people are lining up at the gate of the printing plant to buy the paper," said Don Hayner, managing editor, in a note to the journalism blog Romenesko.

The story was the same in Baltimore. "We printed some 33,000 extra copies this morning, and retailers have been selling out," Sun editor Tim Franklin wrote in a memo to staff. "So they are firing up the presses again at Sun Park to print another 30,000 copies of today's paper. And our page view numbers online are through the roof."

Deals on eBay, Craigslist
A secondary market had already sprung up, with eBay offering papers including USA Today, The Washington Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer and even The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wisc.

Craigslist had copies of the New York Times (with one offered for $35), the New York Daily News as well as "WANTED: Today's NEW YORK TIMES paper" ads.

Still, one day is not enough to counter long-term trends. The industry's average paid weekday circulation declined 4.6% in the first half of the year from the first half of 2007, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sunday paid circulation fell 4.9%.
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