By: Mark Fitzgerald
After the Flood p.
Questions about ad boom as Midwest floodwaters recede; publishers hope rebuilding fuels advertising
WILL THIS SUMMER’S disastrous Midwest flooding generate the kind of advertising boom that helped Florida newspapers recover from Hurricane Andrew?
Newspaper executives along the still swollen tributaries of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers just aren’t sure.
Alton (Ill.) Telegraph publisher Donald V. Miller, for one, doubts it.
“As opposed to Florida after Hurricane Andrew, most people here are not insured for floods and water damage,”” he said, “”So I don’t think there is going to be any boom.””
Instead of employing contractors, Miller said, residents “”are going to be going over to the lumber yard in their brother-in-law’s pickup to get their materials.””
On the other hand, Miller said, there may be an increase in advertising for carpeting and furniture, goods that may be beyond cleaning after prolonged submersion.
Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post editor and publisher John D. Goosen also said he doubts advertising will rebound dramatically in his area.
“The biggest losses are in the land and agriculture,”” he said. “”The number of houses flooded, at least in this are, is relatively small.””
Nevertheless, the Courier-Post is preparing several packages in anticipation of renewed advertising once the bridge between Hannibal and Illinois reopens, probably by the end of August.
“We may see a book of advertising from the Illinois side of the river,”” Goosen said.
However, the flood has virtually destroyed the important tourism industry in Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal.
“Some business are down as much as 90% of normal, and I don’t see that coming back this year. Of course that affects us all in different ways,”” Goosen said.
Quincy (Ill.) Herald-Whig general manager Max Crotser said history provides some justification for optimism.
After Quincy’s last big flood in 1973, there was “”a pretty good rebound”” in advertising once the bridge linking Hannibal, Mo., with Illinois reopened.
“I look for it to rebound,”” Croster said. “”MY guesstimate is we’ll have a nice increase.
Still, this flood has confounded Midwest publishers throughout its maddening course.
The Herald-Whig, for example, never figured that it would be hurt by the flooding. The newspaper plant sits on a steep bluff, and its circulation area was protected by seemingly solid levees.
By mid-July, however, the historic Bay View Bridge was the only connection between Illinois and Missouri for 250 miles.
And when a Quincy levee broke on July 16, the bridge was rendered impassable-stranding some 6,000 Missouri subscribers to the 26,000-circulation evening daily.
“For a few days we flew the papers across,”” general manager Max Crotser said. “”Then the Keokuk, Iowa, bridge opened and we began trucking them over that way.””
Even so, the paper lost about 500 subscribers who were either forced to abandon their homes or were unreachable because of floodwaters.
The surging Mississippi also forced the Herald-Whig to rescue $250,000 worth of newsprint it was storing in underground warehouses near the river.
“These warehouse were protected by a 500-year levee. We went to the levee and frankly it did not look good so in two days we moved those 700 rolls of newsprint to a warehouse across the street from the newspaper,”” Croster recalled.
The levee held.
Speaking as the river was rapidly receding the second week of August, Croster said the newspaper’s advertising held steady in July, and circulation surged on the strength of strong single copy sales.
Similarly, the Dubuque (Iowa) Telegraph Herald ha shad strong single-copy sales for the past eight weeks.
Telegraph Herald circulation director Steve Swails noted the increase coincided not only with the flood but with the beginning of a long-planned effort to pursue single-copy sale more aggressively.
Home delivery was not hurt appreciably because virtually all the newspaper’s circulation was in protected areas, Swails said.
“We’ve delivered to 100% of our distribution area, “” Swails said. “”We had one day when we couldn’t serve one town, Darlington, but other than that we’ve had no problems. nE&P
*(Photo) A home normally near the banks of the Mississippi River in Prairie by Chien, Wis., surrounded by floodwaters that crested at 21 feet over flood stage. Newspapers along the Mississippi River basin ponder the effects as the worst flood in at least a century recedes.