At Age 33, ‘Willamette Week’ Has Best Year Ever For Display Ads, Publisher Says

By: E&P Staff

Willamette Week is about to wrap up its best year ever in display advertising, and is even beginning to rebound a bit in classified advertising that’s been decimated by Craigslist, publisher and co-owner Richard H. Meeker says in the latest issue of the Portland, Oregon, alternative weekly.

“If 2007 concludes as we expect, this will be the paper’s best year ever in display sales (from which we generate over 80 percent of our revenues),” Meeker wrote in a note to readers. “Sales will be up 7.6 percent over 2006. Even when adjusted for inflation (does anyone still remember the Roaring Nineties?), this will mark our best year ever.”

Meeker also noted, however, that classified advertising revenue continues to slump, and that he expects it to be down about $115,000 by the end of the year.

“In recent months, revenue in this area actually has experienced a modest upswing,” he added. “Also: Effective Nov. 1, Craigslist started charging for employment ads. (Message to Mr. Newmark: Would you be kind enough to do the same for rentals?)”

Meeker said 2007’s total revenues for Willamette Week “should be around $6.25 million, a 4 or 5 percent increase over last year.” Pre-tax profit, he added, is expected to be “in the range” of 5%.

“As I’ve often said in this annual column, if WW were owned by a media conglomerate, co-owner Mark Zusman and I would have been relieved of our responsibilities long ago for unsatisfactory financial performance,” Meeker wrote. “Under our brand of management, WW spends well more than the typical weekly on editorial, production and printing. While we certainly could be a little more efficient, we feel it would seriously harm the culture of our operation to try to match national averages calling for profits two to three times greater than ours.”

Willamette Week turns 33 this week, and continues to hold steady in print distribution at 90,000 copies a week, Meeker said. Readership is 402,500, he added.

“For the year, returns (papers not picked up) have averaged 2.6% of the total, though that number has dropped closer to 2 percent since the redesign,” Meeker said, referring to a redesign launched in September. “More important, for the past year WW has had more 18- to 34-year-old Portland-area readers than The Oregonian ‘s Monday-Friday editions, including A&E,” the daily Oregonian’s weekly arts and entertainment publication. ‘

“The count is 146,600 for WW to 125,700 for The O , according to the fall 2006 Media Audit and the daily’s August 2006 report to the Audit Bureau of Circulations,” Meeker said.

In January, the alternative paper is added 100 newsracks on boxes on Portland streets, Meeker wrote.

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