Monday, March 30, 2009

Questioning The N&O Publisher About His Open Letter

If you’re a Raleigh News & Observer print reader who Sunday, Mar. 29, looked at page 12A and then glanced at the facing page, you saw that entire page contained “An open letter to our readers”

The open letter from Orage Quarles, III, N&O President & Publisher is nowhere I could find at the N&O’s online site,; nor is it linked or even mentioned at the N&O’s Editors’ Blog.

For those who aren’t N&O print readers, I’ve typed some of what Quarles told readers and followed that with a copy of an email I’ve just sent him.

Saying he wanted to “set the record straight,” Quarles told N&O readers:

First and foremost, The N&O is a profitable enterprise that is not about to go out of business. In fact, more people depend on us now than ever in our history. Our print and online readership grew last year, and our combined audience keeps setting records.

Every single day, more then 400, 000 adults read The N&O in print ( more than 500,000 on Sundays) and another 85,000 read us online.

Each month, more than 1.8 million unique visitors come to our Web sites, and in just one day this week, we ha more than 1.5 million page views on our site. …
My email to Quarles:

Orage Quarles, President & Publisher
The Raleigh News & Observer

Dear Mr. Quarles:

I can’t find your open letter of March 29 anywhere at or the Editors’ Blog. Did I miss its online publication?

If so, please let me know where it is and I’ll inform JinC readers.

If your letter’s not online, why isn’t it?

With your letter online and an opportunity for readers to comment, you could engage us and respond to our questions and concerns in an “open forum” all could view.

For example:

You say that “[e]very single day, more than 400, 000 adults read The N&O in print[.]”

But you don’t say how you arrived at that number or how it compares with the number of print readers The N&O claimed 5 and 10 years ago.

According to a McClatchy publication chart posted at McClatchy Watch, N&O print circulation in 1998 was, rounded to the nearest thousand, 208, 000 (Sunday) and 164,000 (weekday).

The Audit Bureau of Circulations recent N&O print circulation numbers are about the same or lower than those McClatchy claimed in 1998.

That circulation flat-lining has occurred while population in The N&O’s circulation area has boomed. The US Census Bureau estimates that in Wake County alone between 2000 and 2008 population grew by more than 200,000.

Yet your letter doesn’t discuss long-term factors impacting print circulation and the ad revenues it generates. Instead you express the hope “that this recession is slowing, and that better days will come sooner rather than later.”

You say The N&O is still profitable but you don’t say whether that’s mainly, or even entirely, because of the frequent employee buyouts and layoffs The N&O’s engaged in the past few years and all the outsourcing you’ve done.

You make no mention of how the financial problems of The N&O’s parent McClatchy Company are impacting the paper.

Many people say McClatchy’s problems are one of the principal reasons for The N&O’s cuts in staff and the elimination or melding of entire sections of the newspaper with an attendant and obvious loss in the breath and depth of the paper’s coverage.

I look forward to your response. As in the past, I'll post your response in full at my blog.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

I would not hold my breath waiting for a reply of any substance. My guess is that there will be no reply because the N&O cannot explain how the rise in population has not resulted in a commensurate rise in the N&O's readership. What cannot be measured are the numbers of "readers" like myself who routinely scan their online edition for items of interest but who are not "readers" in the usual sense of the word. I read my local paper and the WSJ each day cover to cover (as well as the Sunday NY TImes) but the N&O, the Herald Sun and the daily NY Times I scan electronically - sometimes daily, other times weekly. I would hardly count me, therefore as a regular reader or subscriber though it would seem that Mr. Quarles does.

JWM said...

Dear cks,

I agree with you on every point you make.

Many of the "more than 1.8 million unique visitors" who come each month to N&O Web sites are there for a few seconds only.

That's part of the reason advertisers won't pay much for "space" at most Web sites including the N&Os.

I don't know Matt Drudge or RCP's monthly unique visitor counts but I'd be surprised if they weren't in each case much higher than 1.5 million.

And that points up a big part of the N&O's (and other newspapers) problem as they try to go to "an online paper:" There simply won't be the ad revenue for such a "paper" as we know newspapers today.

Switching gears: Congrats many times over on winning the NEH study grant. I know the competition is very stiff, especially for the overseas programs.

They picked a good one in you.

I found you program on the Net so I know its dates.

But I don't know your transatlantic travel dates. Will you have time on the front and/or back end of the program?

Knowing that will help me with suggestions.

What do you think of my posting on you plans and running a few posts offering my own and inviting others to offer "travel tips?"

I look forward to hearing from you.

You can respond here or on any other thred. I get all the comments.



Anonymous said...

Dear JinC (JWM)

Thank you so much for kind words. I am still in a state of shock over my selection (when one reaches an advanced age, one doesn't generally think that such opportunities will be avaiable). At the moment I am trying to figure out my schedule as I will be in Fort Littleton, Colorado reading AP European history exams in the middle of June and I have to be in London by the 28th. I hope to travel either the 25th or 26th in order to spend a little time vitisng my son who will be completing his program at the LSE and returning to the States. I am in London until the 10th or 11th of July then in Wahnseer (outside of Leiden) until July 31st. My husband will come over for a few days before he begins his German wine work - we would like to visit Brussels and perhaps do some WWI battlefield visits (the Somme) though I would also like to see my brother (a Lt. Col. stationed in Germany) who I have not seen in several years. I should be back in the States by no later than the 7th of August as I need to take my youngest son back to college. While in London and the Netherlands my weekends are free so I am open to suggestions of what I should see. Any help that you or the many contributors to JinC could provide would be appreciated. Since the focus of my studies while in Europe is the emerging global economy of the late 17th and early 18th century, I should probably keep that in mind when I plan my itinerary.
Again, thank you so much. I enjoy reading and reflecting on the various postings by you and the many erudite contributors to this site.