Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sentinel Sale Raises Spectre of Subscription Switch?

Denver - I drove my mother to DIA yesterday to catch a late afternoon flight back to her home outside Pittsburgh. I then caught an excellent soccer match between the Colorado Rapids and popular Mexican team CF America. Dick's Sporting Goods Park is an excellent venue to view the game. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and everyone is close to the action.

What was even more interesting about the match (a scoreless draw, BTW) was that the number of Club America fans greatly outnumbered the Rapids fans in attendance. You really got the feel of an international futbol match, and even though the match was a "friendly" exhibition, one red card ejection and at least one fight in the stands displayed the passion for this game that we Americans are still trying to get a grasp of. Hockey fans get the idea, I think.


Congratulations are in order to Denny Herzog and his staff at the Daily Sentinel on the announced sale of the paper to Seaton Publishing of Manhattan, Kansas. I'm hopeful for a continued healthy operating posture and positive growth for our local daily.

According to today's story,
"Seaton Publishing is a family business based in Manhattan, Kan., that publishes the daily newspaper in that city. It’s associated with family-owned newspaper companies in Arkansas City and Winfield, Kan.; Alliance and Hastings, Neb.; Spearfish, S.D.; and Sheridan, Wyo., in addition to a group of radio stations in Manhattan, Kan."
I'm familiar with one of Seaton's holdings, the Hastings, Nebraska Tribune. Hastings is, like Grand Junction, a mostly conservative community with a college, bisected by U.S. 6 and served by Amtrak. Hoak Media, the owner of KREX in Grand Junction, also owns the local TV station there, KHAS.

The Tribune has an excellent editorial cartoonist with whom I share some personal common ground. I don't always agree with his sometimes hilarious conservative humor, but perhaps this sale will enable the Sentinel to pick up some of his cartoons. They certainly seem to reflect the tone of the local editorial page in both towns.

One big annoyance about the Tribune is that the bulk of the paper's online content is available by paid subscription only. I'm not saying that they can't charge for their content; it certainly fills a niche if you want to know what's going on in the bustling Hastings-Grand Island metroplex. It just flies in the face of what so many other publications do with their online presence. Perhaps it serves the small-town paper with a more limited print circulation to leverage their online content for additional revenue.

A quick survey of newspaper websites in the towns reported in the Sentinel story revealed a similar pattern. Subscriptions are required to view full story content in the Seaton flagship Manhattan (Kansas) Mercury, the Alliance (Nebraska) Times-Herald, Sheridan (Wyoming) Press, and the Black Hills Pioneer in Spearfish, South Dakota.

However, two other Kansas papers with reported ties to Seaton, the Winfield Courier and Arkansas City Traveler, provide unfettered access to online story content. Perhaps there is hope that the Sentinel's online presence will not be tied down by a change to subscription-based access to stories, etc. If you feel the same way, drop Denny a line and let him know.

Best wishes to the Sentinel and Seaton Publishing on their new relationship, and the opportunity to provide even better service to the readers of the Grand Junction area.

Have a great day.

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