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Yes, we are just trying to sell newspapers

Published: Sun, May 30, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

My “Todd Tour 2010” has taken me to some neat places in recent weeks, including:

Austintown Rotary

Park Vista

Boardman Kiwanis

Youngstown Blockwatch meeting

I enjoy escaping our windowless castle on Front Street. Inevitably, however, one line pops out at these huddles, and it happened at the block-watch event this week at the Covelli Centre.

A city official looked at me and said:

“You are just doing that to sell newspapers ...”

(Stand back ... Get between the two of them ... Someone dial 9 and 1 in case the beefy newspaper guy blows it ...)

Puhlease ...

The truth is: We ARE trying to sell newspapers.

And Panera IS trying to sell bread and coffee, by the way.

Before I go further with the how and why, let me play with “The Line” a bit.

“The Line” is usually delivered in one of two ways: either like James Dean or Al Pacino.

The James Dean-cool person says it out of the side of his mouth, whispering and mumbling. He’s watched “All The President’s Men” a couple of hundred times and therefore knows our business A to Z.

The Al Pacino person is like the “And Justice for All” lawyer frothing and pointing and yelling, “You’re out of order, and you’re out of order ...” These folks are angry from the first word.

I listen to them both the same, but I resist engaging the latter in the truth:

You’re right. We are trying to sell newspapers.

But here’s where the fact gets in the way of perception:

Seventy percent of the papers we need to sell each day are already sold before we even put the finishing touches on the front page.

Sold. It’s one of the enviable parts of our job, and we thank those 70-percenters for being subscribers.

So when we hit the streets with a headline or photo deemed to be sensational, only a small fraction of our business is yet to be attained at the various coffee stores and news racks around town.

And if you dive into that 30-percent statistic a bit further, half or more of that crowd likely would buy the paper if it was wrapped around a largemouth bass. They’re loyal, just like home subscribers.

So you’re looking at about 5 percent to 10 percent of our daily sales, at best, pulled in by a tantalizing headline or photo.

That small of a number is not worth selling our nightly ability to sleep without guilt.

We do decide and package news with the idea of selling newspapers.

We worry about the entire paper, which is why lifestyles and classifieds garner as much supervisory attention as the front page.

This week, I had as long a conversation on wedding and engagement news as I did on an upcoming Sunday package on government double-dippers.

We’re aware of names, words and images that garner more public attention than others. That feedback comes more from the 70 percenters than the 30 percenters.

The 70 percenters want to know about crime, fatalities and misdeeds. And they also want high school graduations, entertainment events and Sudoku.

So yes, you are 100 percent correct:

We are just trying to sell newspapers.

But let’s keep that between us, OK?

And resist going Pacino on me.


1EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

Correctamundo ... the myth of newspaper 'neutrality' is of recent origin, fostered by Journalism Schools.

Historically, the Press has always advocated -- the public can demand objectivity, but not 'neutrality.'

The Traficant/Ryan race is going to sell a lot of papers, which is as it should be.

My beef with the Vindy is that it will not address Traficant's assertion that he never received a nickel from "Mr. Ethics," J.J. Cafaro.

After Detore's whistle-blowing about Cafaro Company tax fraud, J.J. suddenly remembered an unwitnessed penny-ante $13,000 bribe to Traficant and thereby kept the Federales from auditing either US aerospace and the Cafaro Company ... and in addition, J.J. received a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for his his previously confessed perjury on behalf of Lenny Strollo in the Phil Chance case.

No problem, Vindy. We'll be advocating for Traficant online in a format similar to this one: www.PrintcafeSecuritiesFraud.com

The Vindicator will be welcome to join the debate.

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2ts1227(137 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

And as indicated by the comments, you can't forget the percentage who complain about the paper every day as they hand the convenience store worker their change.

(You know, the ones who complain about the price yet buy it daily from the store instead of subscribing and saving some... the ones who hate it so much that they are at the store before sunrise to get it and take it out on the clerk if the paper is running a whole 15 minutes "late", etc.)

Luckily, the powers that be know better than to cater to this group.

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3toddfranko(101 comments)posted 6 years ago


That's a good point. We do recognize the need for income, and also our role in developing jobs that provide income.

I think we've worked hard to ensure that a complete picture of the Valley -- not just the crime and murders and rust -- gets to the front page and gets celebrated.

In addition to serving it up on A1, we've created Blitz, Neighbors, Operation Holiday Cheer and 18 Greatest Golf Holes.

All are efforts to showcase the best of the Valley. We'd hope that when developers and corporations bump into The Vindy, they see a complete picture, and not just a rusty one.

Thanks for reading.

Vindy editor

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