Media, Printing & Graphics  August 24, 2001

Five dailies mirror local economies

Newspapers remain dominant in their local markets

Since the late 1800s, Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming residents have been served by five newspapers that have evolved into vibrant daily publications with their own spheres of influence.

Representatives for all five papers said their publications are still doing well in the slowing economy, with ongoing circulation increases and strong local reader preference and loyalty.

Fort Collins Coloradoan

The largest local daily, both in circulation and number of employees, is the Coloradoan in Fort Collins. The paper was founded in 1873 as the Larimer County Express and later merged with another local paper, the Fort Collins Courier. In 1937, the Speidel Newspaper group acquired the Express-Courier, changing the paper’s name in 1945 to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Speidel merged with Gannett Co. Inc. in 1977, which has owned the paper since then, renaming it the Coloradoan in 1980. Gannett, based in Arlington, Va., is the nation’s largest media chain with 16 TV stations, more than 90 newspapers and USA Today, launched in 1982.

Dorothy Bland, Coloradoan publisher for the past seven years, said the paper has benefited from a growing and prosperous local economy.

“I think we’re very fortunate in that Northern Colorado’s economy is very healthy,” she said. “Net paid (subscription) averages grew more than 24 percent daily and more than 23 percent for Sunday in the last decade.”

If there’s been any weakness lately, it could be in advertising revenue. Bland said while some areas of advertising — such as real estate — remain “very strong,” others “offer opportunities for growth.” The Coloradoan is by far the most expensive daily in the region for advertising, with a full-page weekday ad costing more than $3,500. The next most-expensive is the Greeley Tribune, with the same ad costing just over $2,700.

Like other dailies in the region, Bland said the joint operating agreement reached last year by The Denver Post and Denver Rocky Mountain News has helped cool the intense competition for readers in Northern Colorado.

“The JOA has clearly changed the landscape for the Denver metro region, and I think there will be a positive spinoffs for dailies,” she said. “We are the No. 1 source for local news and information and our goal is to remain the No. 1 source.”

Longmont Daily Times-Call

The next-largest daily in the region is the Longmont Daily Times-Call, founded in 1871 as the Burlington Free Press. The paper later evolved into the Longmont Times, which became a daily in 1893. The Longmont Call, which started as a weekly in 1898, merged with the Longmont Times in 1931.

The paper was purchased by the Lehman family in 1957 and is now part of Lehman Communications Corp., a family-run business that also includes weeklies in Louisville, Lafayette and Erie and the Cañon City Daily-Record and Loveland Reporter-Herald.

Dean Lehman, president of both the TimesCall and Reporter-Herald, said circulation for both papers has been “going up some” without giving details.

“I think we’d all like to have better numbers, but when compared to the competition, we’re holding our own,” he said.

Lehman said both the Longmont and Loveland papers benefit from being “stand-alone communities” with their own locally based readerships.

“Both are very much independent communities and certainly not suburbs,” he said. ‘They have a tradition of local decision making.”

The Lehman Communications Corp. is based in Longmont. The company’s presses print several other regional papers, including the and The Northern Colorado Business Report.

Lehman said he believes the biggest competition his papers face is not other newspapers but readers’ time constraints.

“I think our biggest competition is for readers’ time,” he said. “It’s a busy world.”

Other challenges in the newspaper industry, Lehman noted, were the rising cost of newsprint and medical insurance costs for company employees.

Greeley Tribune

Third-largest daily in the region is the Greeley Tribune, founded in 1870. The paper’s first publisher was Nathan Meeker, a young editor who worked for the New York Tribune before heeding the advice of his publisher, Horace Greeley, to “Go West, young man” and settle a new nation.

Publisher Jim Elsberry said things are generally going well for the paper, which he says is a reflection of the area’s economic well-being.

“I think we’re a barometer of the local economy,” he said. “We have slowed a little bit, but that’s off a record pace, mostly in advertising growth.”

Elsberry said the paper’s circulation is “up a couple of points,” a fact he credits to population growth as more and more people move into Weld County and to the resolution of the Denver newspaper wars of recent years.

“It’s partly the fact that you can’t get a metro, home-delivered year’s subscription for $5 any longer,” he said.

Elsberry said the Tribune has invested heavily in its operations in the last year, increasing the size of its press by one-third and upgrading newsroom computers. The Tribune does a “significant” amount of outside printing, accounting for about 10 to 15 percent of its total income, he said.

The Tribune is the largest paper in the Swift Newspaper group based in Reno, Nevada. The family-owned company, which acquired the Tribune in the mid-1970s, has about 30 papers across the country, including several in Colorado mountain communities.

Elsberry, who became publisher about four years ago, said he’s happy to be with a newspaper in a thriving region.

“I’ve worked in other areas of the country and I’m glad I’m not somewhere else,” he said.

Loveland Reporter-Herald

Fourth-largest of the region’s five daily newspapers is the Loveland Reporter-Herald, founded in 1880. Now part of Lehman Communications Corp., a controlling interest in the paper was purchased by the Lehman family in 1967.

Dean Lehman, president, said the Reporter-Herald, like its sister paper the Longmont Times-Call, are “far and away the strongest papers in their market.”

Like the Longmont paper, the Reporter-Herald serves an independent readership interested in local news and looks to the local paper to provide that information, he said.

“We hope it’s a necessity,” he said.

As with the other dailies, though, the competition for advertising — especially in a slowing economy — is tough.

“We’ve found the Front Range is pretty competitive for advertising,” he said.

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

Rounding out the region’s five dailies is the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, based in Cheyenne. The paper primarily serves southeast Wyoming, according to Michael McCraken, president and publisher.

The paper’s roots go back to 1867, making it the oldest of the five. Cheyenne’s morning paper, the Eagle, merged with the city’s evening paper, the Tribune, in 1994. The paper is owned by Cheyenne Newspaper Inc.

McCraken said the paper’s circulation growth has been slow, paralleling the slow population growth in southeastern Wyoming.

“We’re up slightly (over a year ago),” he said. “It’s growing slowly. We’re certainly dominant in this market. Casper and Denver newspapers are here, but most people who take the Denver papers take ours, too.”

Attempts by those papers to grab a bigger share of the southeastern market have largely failed, McCraken said.

“It tells me there’s certainly a number of people who want to read Denver news but the majority want local news and that’s us.”

McCraken said the Tribune-Eagle does a “pretty extensive commercial-printing” operation on the side and is experiencing a recent boom in advertising income.

“In terms of outlook for the market, it’s probably the best we’ve seen in 20 years or so,” he said.

When it comes to challenges for the future, McCraken said the biggest is “just (increasing) readership and trying to build circulation.”

And that may get easier as Cheyenne feels the effects of its own growth and its connection to the generally vibrant economy of Colorado’s north Front Range.

“Fortunately, our retail market is seeing some growth,” he said. “A lot of papers are going down (in advertising income) but we’ve been going up.”

Newspapers remain dominant in their local markets

Since the late 1800s, Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming residents have been served by five newspapers that have evolved into vibrant daily publications with their own spheres of influence.

Representatives for all five papers said their publications are still doing well in the slowing economy, with ongoing circulation increases and strong local reader preference and loyalty.

Fort Collins Coloradoan

The largest local daily, both in circulation and number of employees, is the Coloradoan in Fort Collins. The paper was founded in 1873 as the Larimer County Express and later merged with another local paper, the Fort Collins…

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