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Newspapers, Radio Seek Big Returns

Local media outlets are expecting the industry to focus more on increasing revenue and boosting audience levels throughout the county this year.

Nationally, the radio industry has forecasted revenues to increase by about 4 percent in 2005.

For local print publications, circulation is expected to rise in 2005, with the

San Diego Union-Tribune

and the

North County Times

experiencing growth in 2004, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an Illinois-based not-for-profit organization that audits the circulation for publications nationwide. The

San Diego Business Journal

also expects a strong year in 2005.

For San Diego radio, Darrel Goodin, the general manager of the local offices of Jefferson-Pilot Communications, which operates KSON-FM 97.3, KIFM-FM 98.1 and KBZT-FM 94.9, said he expects radio revenues to increase by 4 percent to 6 percent in 2005.

According to the San Diego Radio Broadcasters Association, an organization of local radio stations, San Diego radio stations’ revenue growth has averaged nearly 5 percent more revenue than the national average in the last three years.

In 2003, San Diego radio stations’ revenue reached more than $180 million, up 11 percent from 2001, according to the organization.

While the radio stations continue to increase their revenue year after year, the growth has been steady, Goodin said, a trend he expects to continue in 2005.

“I don’t think it is going to be a windfall year but it is shaping up very well,” Goodin said. “We see 2005 as a good, solid year.”

Room For Growth

With about 2.7 million listeners tuning into San Diego radio stations weekly, Goodin said he still sees room for growth in 2005.

“I think in 2003 and 2004 we have been right in the groove of things,” Goodin said. “And I see opportunities for audience growth in 2005.”

Clear Channel Radio, which is based in San Antonio but operates 11 local stations, is also beginning 2005 with a plan to increase listenership.

Launched on Dec. 15, the “Less Is More” campaign plans to reduce the amount of commercial minutes that are played per hour and limit the length of commercials in a spot break.

The plan, according to Kelly Kibler, the vice president and market manager for the San Diego Clear Channel stations, is designed to “keep the audience listening for a longer period of time.”

Kibler said she would not be able to speculate on the stations’ potential revenue in 2005, however she did say that all stations currently under control of Clear Channel will remain operated by Clear Channel this year.

Clear Channel, which operates KUSS-FM 95.7, KOGO-AM 600 and KHTS-FM 93.3, has been under fire for its operation of 11 stations in the market, eight owned and operated by Clear Channel and three stations based in Mexico but operated by Clear Channel.

Under the new Federal Communications Commission rules on joint sales agreements, stations are permitted to own up to five FM stations and three AM stations per market.

“We are not selling any stations; we are transferring the exclusive marketing agreement to another party,” Kibler said. “We are just operating the foreign stations. We do not own them. We fully intend to comply with the law by September 1, 2006 (the date in which they are required to meet FCC rules), and are evaluating various options to get there.”

Looking For Larger Numbers

Like their radio counterparts, print media are also looking to gain a greater foothold in the market.

The San Diego Union-Tribune is heading into 2005 expecting advertising revenue and circulation to rise.

Randy Frisch, director of finance for the publication, said both categories were strong in 2004 and are expected to do well this year.

“We are very optimistic about advertising and circulation in 2005,” Frisch said. “We expect to be better than last year. Between 1.3 and 1.5 million people read the San Diego Union-Tribune every day and advertisers recognize it as one of the most efficient ways to advertise.”

Frisch said the newspaper plans to boost its circulation by adding sections.

“We want everybody to read the Union-Tribune,” he said. “We have plans to add feature pages and to improve every section in the paper.”

The publication also plans to focus more on its online edition, SignonSanDiego.com, which is also expected to attract more Internet users, Frisch said.

Since 2002, SignonSanDiego.com has increased the number of its page impressions users, which is the number of times someone visits a page, by 37 percent. That number grew from 20.8 million in 2002 to 28.5 million in 2004, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

While there has been speculation regarding the sale of the Union-Tribune and the departure of Publisher David Copley because of concerns over his health, Frisch said that is unfounded.

“Mr. Copley is committed to the newspaper,” Frisch said.

Kent Davy, the editor of the North County Times, which focuses on national, regional and local news, said that 2005 brings with it a chance to re-evaluate the paper and improve the publication on all fronts.

“You are always going through the process of what your core strengths are,” Davy said. “You want to do more of what you do best.”

Davy said the paper, which has a circulation of more than 93,000 for its Monday-Saturday editions, will increase its community news and delve into topics affecting the local community, such as the military, health care, government and homeless issues.

The publication has increased its circulation for the Sunday edition by more than 4 percent since 2002, according to ABC.

The North County Times, which was recently joined in the North County by competitor Today’s Local News, an upstart publication distributed Tuesday through Sunday, will continue to cover all of the North County, Davy said.

Linda Hastings, the publisher of

Today’s Local News,

said after only six weeks of publication, the paper is doing well and receiving support in the community.

“One reason why we decided to publish here is that this is one of the fastest growing areas in the country,” Hastings said. “Being in publishing in a growing market is great.”

Today’s Local News is distributed free to 75,000 homes in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido.

The newspaper, which is owned by the La Jolla-based Copley Press, expects to double the size of its advertising staff beginning in early 2005, Hastings said.

She said that as a new publication, every day is a chance to get better and to increase readership and, in 2005, she expects to see more of that.

“We want to deliver information better in a way that the modern day individual can get it fast,” Hastings said. “For us, the challenge is to have a successful launch. Every day we make a new product and every day we need to improve.”

As the San Diego Business Journal celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2005, the publication expects to see an increase in subscriptions.

“2005 will be a really good year,” said Russ Havens, the director of circulation and marketing for the publication. “We’ve had a 30 percent increase in single-copy sales from November 2003-2004 and we expect to see a 15-20 percent increase in subscriptions in 2005.”

The Business Journal, which is distributed at more than 70 retail locations countywide, currently has a circulation of 15,000 and expects to grow to 17,000 by the end of 2005.

Havens, who has been with the publication since July, said the company will continue to make strides to improve the newspaper in 2005.


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