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Civic Skinny

Register circulation drops again. Klinefeldt won’t run.

7/1/2015

Dave Chivers, the new publisher of The Des Moines Register, has his work cut out for him.

Audited figures show the newspaper’s slide in circulation is continuing unabated.

In the quarter ended March 31, print circulation of the Sunday Register was 132,544. That’s down 13,330 from the year-earlier figure of 145,874, a drop of 9.1 percent. Circulation of the Monday-to-Friday print edition fell to 71,941 from 78,694 a year earlier, a drop of 8.5 percent.

Ten years ago, the Sunday circulation was about 240,000, the daily 150,000.

The drop contains a double whammy for the Register: While fewer and fewer people are subscribing to a newspaper, also fewer and fewer are buying single copies at newsstands and vending machines.

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“Single-copy sales are obsolescent,” Ken Doctor, a media analyst, wrote earlier this year. He cites drops at six big newspapers, and the drop at the Register was the highest. In the three years from the fall of 2011 to last fall, single-copy sales fell 53 percent for both the daily and Sunday Registers. He said the increase in single-copy prices is the main reason. The Register today sells for $2 on the newsstands Sunday and $1 on weekdays. Five years ago it was $1.50 on Sundays and 75 cents daily.

Ten years ago, the Register sold more than 57,000 copies at newsstands on Sundays, about 25,000 copies daily. Today, those numbers are about 25,000 and about 9,000.

Chivers, a North High graduate who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and Meredith and whose expertise is in digital marketing, inherits a digital operation at the Register that despite marketing and journalistic emphasis is still quite small.

Circulation of the digital editions is rising, but not enough to offset the drop in print circulation. What’s more, most of the increase in digital numbers is in what the newspaper calls its “nonreplica” edition — its tablet app, for instance — which carries only limited advertising and produces only limited revenue. All told, digital subscriptions, which include the replica and non-replica versions, averaged 8,602 for the Sunday Register in the latest reporting period, up from 6,365 a year before. That’s an increase of 35 percent, but it’s on a very small base. The daily digital subscriptions rose to a combined 12,392 from 8,288.

Combined print and digital circulation of the Register now averages 141,146 on Sundays, down from 152,239 a year ago. The combined daily average is 84,333, down from 86,982 a year before. Those are drops of 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

It seems clear the Register would like to drop home delivery of the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday newspapers. Recent Groupon offers include deals on the digital, the Sunday and the Thursday-through-Sunday papers, as do direct-marketing offers. And the posted circulation prices discourage readers from buying the early-in-the-week print editions.

The emphasis shows up in the figures. Circulation of the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday newspapers is running around 65,000. Circulation of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday papers is running around 80,000.

Newspapers in Detroit, Syracuse, Portland and Cleveland, among others, have eliminated home delivery on some days. …

The lawyers in the long-running utility franchise-fee case against the City of Des Moines will have to settle for the $7 million the Polk County District Court awarded them in 2013 as part of the $40 million settlement with the city. The lawyers wanted close to $15 million, but on Monday the Iowa Supreme Court rejected the “application for further review” of fees awarded to Brad Schroeder, Bruce H. Stoltze and Steven Brick. The $7 million works out to about $660 an hour for everyone involved — lawyers, clerks and secretaries. Eventually, residents will get refunds of around $300.

Nick Klinefeldt, the United States Attorney in Des Moines, has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination to run for Congress in the Third Congressional District. Washington Democrats were particularly eager for him to run, figuring he had a good chance to unseat first-term Republican David Young.

But the pull of two young children — and perhaps the likely entry into the race of former Gov. Chet Culver — outweighed the pleas of the folks at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. …

Nathan Blake, the assistant attorney general who was appointed to a stub term on the Des Moines School Board in February, doesn’t plant to seek election to a full term this fall….

To the dismay of Iowa Democrats, the White House appears to be moving forward on Sen. Charles Grassley’s choices for the two openings on the Federal bench in Iowa. The nominees — state judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger for the opening in the Southern District in Des Moines and U.S. Magistrate Judge Leonard Strand for the Northern District — are being vetted by White House staffers. …

Meredith Corp. does business with Martha Stewart and her company, and the gossip column of the New York Post reported the other day that Meredith chief executive Steve Lacy and Stewart were seen dining with one another the other evening at a popular restaurant in Manhattan.

The Post reported that “a spy said Stewart looked ‘fabulous’ at dinner, in a ‘sexy pantsuit,’ and was ‘drinking red wine and eating oysters.’ ” No report on how Lacy looked, what he was wearing, or what he was eating. …

A reader writes:

“The following church notice may reflect how prayer has progressed to appreciate all things spiritual and nutritional, or it just could be poor editing. You be the judge.

“ ‘The Mass of Healing and Brunch is this Saturday, June 27th, at 10:00 a.m.’ ” CV

 

 

Comment: Branstad (1)

Everyone has a right to be bigoted.

But a government doesn’t.

So it’s somewhere between shameful and astounding that Gov. Terry Branstad won’t say where he stands on the issue of the state of South Carolina flying the confederate flag over its statehouse.

“I don’t think I, as the governor of Iowa, should be telling another state what they should do with their state capitol,” he told reporters the other day.

It’s a “very emotional and historic issue,” he noted.

Contrast that to the position of former Florida governor Jeb Bush: He tweeted congratulations to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for “doing the right thing” in ordering the flag removed.

By ducking the issue about the flag in South Carolina, Branstad is also ducking an issue about bigotry — and thus leaving Iowans wondering. Does the Governor think it’s even remotely acceptable for a state to be officially racist, to endorse white supremacy, to yearn for the days when blacks were slaves, were looked upon as property and not as persons?

For the Confederate flag is, above all else, a symbol of a slave-owning society. More than 76,000 Iowans served in the Civil War. More than 13,000 died, and another 9,000 or so were injured. They fought and they died to keep the nation unified and to ensure freedom and dignity for everyone in that nation.

The American flag is the symbol of all they were fighting for. The Confederate flag is the symbol of all they were fighting against — bigotry and slavery and the dehumanizing of black men and black women and black children.

What is it that Terry Branstad doesn’t understand about that? CV

— Michael Gartner

 

Comment: Branstad (2)

The Governor took a hit from his own guys the other day when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that women had a right to have an abortion by taking pills prescribed by a doctor over a video-telephone hookup — so-called telemedicine.

The decision, written by Justice David Wiggins, was unanimous among the six justices taking part. Those six included Ed Mansfield and Tom Waterman, two men Branstad appointed to the court three years ago after voters rejected retaining three of the justices who ruled that the Iowa constitution protected the rights of gay people who wanted to marry one another.

The Governor had packed the Iowa Board of Medicine with anti-abortion people — including an outspoken Roman Catholic priest — after the board that had been in place in 2010 approved the practice of telemedicine abortions. The new board passed a rule requiring a physician to be physically present when an abortion-inducing drug was prescribed. Planned Parenthood sued.

Noting that the board acknowledges that abortion is legal in Iowa and noting that the board says telemedicine is accepted in Iowa, the court said that by singling out women seeking a telemedicine prescription the state places an undue burden upon those women. That burden violates the Iowa constitution, the court ruled.

The governor didn’t like that. He said he was “very disappointed” in the decision and he “disagreed” with it.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreement and disappointment, of course, but it’s worth noting that two of the people he disagrees with and is disappointed in are two of the men he had hoped would carry forth his conservative social agenda.

Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned. CV

— Michael Gartner

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