Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Consulting Pact Raises Eyebrows

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Consulting Pact Raises Eyebrows

Article excerpt

THE DALLAS NEWSPAPER war, virtually extinct since the Times Herald closed four years ago, may be on the verge of heating up again.

The Dallas Morning News, the remaining daily, has signed a consulting agreement with the second of the city's two alternative weekly papers. The deal has not only exacerbated relations between the Morning News and the dominant weekly, the Dallas Observer, but raised questions about why the staid, conservative Morning News would ally itself with The Met - an 18-month-old publication best known for its irreverent, first-person accounts of News employees' personal lives.

"The best anyone here can figure out is that the News realizes there is more to newspaper publishing these days than the traditional way of doing it," said Rick Wamre, who publishes two community papers in Dallas. "On the one hand, the News is so big that you'd wonder why they would want to bother with the Met. And then you realize that this is one of the those niches that traditional daily newspapers don't serve anymore, and this allows the News to reach that niche."

The consulting and marketing agreement, announced at the end of August, calls for the Met to pay the Morning News to advise it on ways to bolster advertising revenue, increase circulation and improve its marketing skills. The deal is also notable for what it did not include: The News, said vice president and general manager Jeremy Halbreich, has no intention of buying its new business associate, "now or in the future," and the News will not have any say about the Met's editorial content, which emphasizes arts and entertainment for the 20-something crowd.

Terms were not disclosed, although Met editor Eric Celeste said a sliding scale was involved that will allow the Morning News to increase its compensation if the Met's revenues increase.

"We saw this as a business opportunity," said Halbreich about the apparently unprecedented alliance. Other daily newspapers own alternative weeklies or publish their own, but none seem to have gone this route.

"This deal is a way for us to learn something about a market niche that we would not otherwise have a chance to learn about," said Halbreich, pointing out that the Met's core readers are the 18-35-year-old men who have been deserting daily newspapers with increasing frequency over the past two decades.

"This was also an opportunity for us to increase our revenues," he said.

The Morning News will advise the Met on how to:

* Increase circulation. Currently, the free weekly distributes 50,000 papers at 900 locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. …

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