Daily paper starts weekly coverage of Meridian

Scott Ki//January 25, 2013

Daily paper starts weekly coverage of Meridian

Scott Ki//January 25, 2013

A new weekly newspaper called the Meridian Press focuses on the southwestern Idaho city.

The paper is delivered free on Fridays to 10,000 targeted homes and other locations in Meridian. The daily Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa publishes the new weekly.

Matt Davison, president and publisher of both papers, said a market study conducted by Pulse Research in Portland, Ore., helped in making the decision to launch the weekly.

“Meridian has been described by many people in Meridian as sort of a middle child. They don’t get the coverage or attention from the Boise, statewide paper. And the Idaho Press-Tribune has focused traditionally on Canyon County.”

The full-size weekly will include news on Meridian government, education, business, sports and other community information.

Davison added the goal is to reach well-off, mature households, and targeted that niche in deciding where to distribute the Meridian Press for free. He used a research industry term, “flourishing families,” or affluent middle-aged families or couples that lead “comfortable active lives,” as an example of the type of audience he hopes will read the paper.

The new weekly comes at a time of declining numbers for daily print newspapers. For decades, the number of dailies in the United States had hovered above 1,700. But in the mid-1980s, they dropped to 1,688, and by 2011, the number had sunk to 1,382.

John Morton, a veteran newspaper analyst in Silver Spring, Md., said few new print newspapers are springing up these days, and print newspapers aren’t doing well as an industry. However, “the more local they are, the better off they are,” he said. “That kind of publication has a much better chance of succeeding as a startup than a larger and more broadly focused publication.”

He said small and medium-sized market newspapers are closer to their readers and their advertisers than those in large markets. Consequently, competition from online sources is less intense.

All print dailies have been affected by the Internet, he added. “But the small papers still command operating margins in the low double-digit range. Some businesses never hope to do that in the best of times. And here these newspapers are able to do it in what for them has been the worst of times.”

Morton added those types of numbers have attracted the investor Warren E. Buffet, who bought more than 60 papers this year. Although he had to close one paper in Virginia, Buffet remains bullish on the industry.

The Idaho Statesman, a daily paper based in Boise, has standalone weekly sections that focus on business and entertainment. For instance, the paper’s Business Insider started on a subscription basis. Statesman Publisher and President Mike Jung changed that to a free option for daily subscribers after he arrived in Boise in 2011.

In response to the new Meridian Press, Jung said, “I think community papers can be viable if they provide good local content.” He said the Statesman has roughly 14,000 print subscribers in Meridian in addition to a digital audience.

According to Jung, in a perfect world, the Statesman would also provide more local community content. “But I don’t know whether that can happen in the near future.”

Meridian Press stories will be available online without a subscription.