Good morning, Seattle p.14

By: Lucia Moses & M.L. Stein For a bigger cut of the pie, Hearst accepts
heightened battle for morning readers
The Seattle Times, one of a dwindling number of evening metro dailies, says it will convert to the morning cycle and compete directly with its joint operating partner, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Times president and chief operating officer Mason Sizemore expects "a journalistic competitive battle the likes of which is rarely seen these days."
The move is a concession to readers' inexorable preference for morning newspapers. Total U.S. morning circulation surpassed afternoon circulation in the early 1980s. The conversion is expected to take two years.
"To sustain our success, independence and growth into the future, it isn't feasible for the Seattle Times to continue publishing an afternoon paper," Sizemore says in a prepared statement. The deal was announced Feb. 2.
The Times, owned by the Blethen family, has been in a joint operating agreement (JOA) with Hearst Corp.'s Post-Intelligencer since 1983. The Times manages all operations except the Post-Intelligencer newsroom, and the partners split the profits.
For allowing the Times into the morning cycle, the renegotiated JOA increases Hearst's cut of the profits ? to 40%from 32% ? and extends the JOA partnership for 50 years.
The Post-Intelligencer also gets the right to expand its Internet presence by including daily news and editorial updates. Previously, its Web presence was limited because of a disagreement over what the Post-Intelligencer was permitted to print.
J.D. Alexander, editor and publisher of the Post-Intelligencer, says he welcomes the "head-to-head competition." He expects the added profits to help the Post-Intelligencer improve its news product.
The Times says job losses are possible, but it's too early to tell when or how many. It plans to discuss the changes with its unions but had not done so to protect the secrecy of the JOA talks.
Though still dominant in the market, the Times has been losing ground. Its daily circulation has slipped to 228,000 in 1998 from 237,000 in 1988, as Post-Intelligencer circulation tapered to 196,000, from 206,000.
The Times says the shift to the morning is supported by readers, who told researchers they strongly prefer a morning paper.
While the Times has so far bucked the morning trend, "We are at a point where we must respond to the community's preference for a morning paper," Sizemore says.
The announcement follows a long trend of declining evening circulation
and disappearing titles. In 1987, there were 511 morning and 1,166 evening papers, vs. 705 morning and 816 evening titles in 1997.
The jointly named Sunday edition is produced by the Times, except for three editorial and feature pages from the Post-Intelligencer. It sells 504,000 copies. The Times already publishes in the morning on weekends and holidays.
The 103-year-old Seattle Times Co., which also owns dailies in Walla Walla and Yakima, last year acquired the Guy Gannett papers, headed by the Portland Press Herald, in Maine.
Under the 16-year-old JOA, the Times controls advertising, production, distribution, and marketing for both papers. While the owners split the profits, the newspapers compete for readers.
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher February 6, 1999) [Caption]


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