September 11, 2008

R.I.P., newspaper stock tables

The Journal Times' stock tables -- those pages of eyesight-straining agate type (actually 5 1/2 point) recounting thousands of stocks' closing price at the end of each trading day -- will soon disappear. Readers were told today to go the the paper's website, where even more information will be made available.

This should be no surprise to anyone. Most U.S. dailies used to print four pages of stock tables daily, Tuesday through Saturday and sometimes also on Sunday with a weekly wrap-up, to allow investors to keep track of the prior day's trading. They listed all issues traded on the major exchanges, as well as the burgeoning list of Mutual Funds. But in recent years, many newspapers cut back, reducing the number of stocks tracked and -- more importantly to their own bottom line -- reducing the number of pages of newsprint required.

At the Journal Times, which cut back daily from four pages to one years ago, (and three on Saturdays) even that single daily page will fade into history at the end of this week. Editor Steve Lovejoy told readers today -- correctly -- that internet stock tables are better than the newsprint version: For one thing, they're constantly updated throughout the day, not just at the end of the day's trading. (Which, when applied to news in general, is a mixed blessing for newspapers -- but that's another story.)

Still, Lovejoy's notice did leave out the one crucial argument behind the newspapers' decision to drop stock tables: cost. That single page of newsprint saved daily, and two more saved on Saturday, represents -- by my rough calculation of $120 per page for a paper with the Journal Times' circulation -- an annual saving of $43,000. And that's just the cost of newsprint, ignoring labor, printing plates, etc. A few years ago -- before the internet's ubiquitous stock sites made newspaper listings less necessary -- when the Journal Times was printing four pages of listings at least five days a week, that cost the paper $125,000 for newsprint alone. Here, as at most every daily newspaper, newsprint is the second largest cost, after salaries.

In truth, most readers -- especially those who follow the market closely -- won't miss the newspaper tables at all. And if you're wondering this instant how any local stock is doing, you can always go to RacinePost.com for our constantly updated listings. Click on any of the stock symbols for even more information.

3 comments:

  1. The J-T has yet to understand that it has out lived its purpose but yet The J-T thinks we MUST obey them via there more and more silly editorial thoughts.

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  2. StopthemadnessNOW9/11/2008 8:39 PM

    Yes, newspaper stock tables have outlived their usefulness. To be honest, I rarely consult stock tables unless a copy of the WS Journal is lying around. But you have to wonder what's going to be next in the race to save newsprint (and $$) -- baseball box scores perhaps?

    And, thanks to Pete for the detailed cost savings analysis of cutting out a page of newsprint consumption. Trouble is, the $43K cited will go straight to Davenport and NOT invested back into the local product. It's no wonder why the ink-on-dead-trees media industry is in such sad shape.

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