Audit Notes: Sunday Papers, Weymouth’s Payday, Ayn Rand

Ken Doctor has some interesting thoughts at the Nieman Journalism Lab on why The New York Times’s paywall pricing steers print readers toward its Sunday edition:

In fact, one impact could be to provide a boost to Sunday print circulation. Across the country, Sunday circ has declined at close to the rate of daily, though there’s a fair amount of nuance here. In the last semi-annual report, the Times’ Sunday circulation was down three percent, compared to six percent for daily.

We’re focusing, in this moment, on reader revenue, but it’s still ad revenue for the Times and nearly all dailies that represent their biggest income. Here, too, the Sunday print/daily digital access plan holds a lot of promise. Sunday has always been a big day for daily publishers, but through the last decade, it’s become a bigger day. In fact, Sunday isn’t just the biggest day; it’s fast becoming the pivotal day. In fact, current profitability can often rest on Sunday.

This is very interesting:

Remember how the Detroit papers cut back to three and four days of print publication, in the dark days of the deep recession, two years ago? They are still on that publishing schedule, and here’s the key reason why: They retained 93 percent of seven-day ad revenue when they went to new model, says Dave Hunke, now publisher of USA Today, and the guy who, as Gannett’s lead in Detroit, led those changes.

And a potential gameplan:

So, the math is clear, and aspirational. Keep the Sunday reader, the Sunday reader income, and the Sunday ad revenue. Keep the daily attention of readers through digital access. Package the Sunday and daily directly — or indirectly. Manage down your print costs as quickly as you can, laying the foundation for a mainly digital 2020 world.

— Big bonuses aren’t just for Wall Street executives. They’re also for struggling newspaper execs, too.

Footnoted’s Sonya Hubbard takes a look at the Washington Post Company’s most-recent filing.

Here’s the Post’s disclosure on Post publisher Katharine Weymouth:

“In 2010, Ms. Weymouth was paid $537,000 in base salary and received a bonus of $483,750 based on the achievement of pre-established 2010 performance goals. In addition, Ms. Weymouth received $1,053,441 based on achieving pre-established goals under the WP Media Three-Year Long-Term Incentive Plan and a payment of $72,000 for her 2,400 vested Performance Units in the 2007-2010 Award Cycle….”

Hubbard adds:

On top of that, Weymouth is getting a raise of nearly 16.5 percent this year, effective April 1, which means that her 2011 base salary will be $625,000. And besides the performance units referenced above, Weymouth gets equity awards in the form of restricted stock and stock options that vest over a number of years.

I guess the newspaper division did only lose $10 million in her third year, down from $168 million in her second year. Progress!

— Ed Crooks pans the Atlas Shrugged movie in the Financial Times today. I wouldn’t agree with his characterization of Ayn Rand as having “a towering reputation in the US,” but he pulls a funny quote from John Rogers:

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged,” he wrote.

“One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,