Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In the Race for Ad Dollars

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In the Race for Ad Dollars

Article excerpt

BELO FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS IN BIG D

Its 'Dallas Morning News' and WFAA-TV lead field of contenders, with Knight Ridder's 'Fort Worth Star-Telegram' back in the pack

From its origins as a cow town to its days as center of the American Oil Patch, the Dallas-Fort Worth market has known many booms and busts. What it's going through now, though, is an unfamiliar combination of the two.

Despite a sharp downturn this year in the high-technology sector, one of its primary industries, the Dallas-Fort Worth area remains on a steady growth track. Even with widespread layoffs at companies along the Telecom Corridor in the region's northwestern suburbs and rising office vacancy rates, unemployment remains relatively low and the housing market is solid. Residential projects planned or under development in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area include Vaquero, a 525- acre golf community with 335 homes priced at $800,000 and above.

Knight Ridder owns the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but Dallas is a Belo town. Its ABC affiliate WFAA-TV is the top biller in a market that is ranked seventh -- and among the most competitive -- in the nation. The Dallas Morning News serves as Belo's anchor for a print operation that includes the suburban daily Denton Record-Chronicle, semiweekly papers in Louisville and Grapevine, and a bilingual weekly, La Fuente, that is mailed every Wednesday to 108,103 Latino households in the circulation area.

"They have their fingers in pretty much everything," said Randy Roberson, president of Dallas-based R.L. Roberson. Among his ad agency's clients is the big builder Marlowe Homes. "As far as being able to target a specific area, you can buy into that area -- but you're still going through The Dallas Morning News. They pretty much dominate the rates, dominate the placement as far as that goes, and dominate the [print] market," Roberson added.

But ad linage at the Belo's flagship Morning News has been hit hard by the slowdown. In July, retail advertising was down 10.8%, year over year; total full-run advertising including supplements was down 15.1%; and classified volume was down 19.3%, with losses especially pronounced in the employment category. "That statistical report tells you just about everything you need to know about the market," said James M. Moroney III, who was named Morning News publisher and CEO in May.

One bright spot in classified is automotive, which the paper expects to end this year up over 2000. To boost employment classified, Moroney said, the Morning News and Belo's TV station are making major commitments to the CareerBuilder Inc. online recruiting venture between Knight Ridder and Tribune Co. This month, the News employment section will be redesigned to display the CareerBuilder logo and colors. "When this section front comes out, it'll show we're serious about employment and are looking to more ways to serve clients in this category," Moroney said.

For all its worth

The other big daily paper in the market is Knight Ridder's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which, like the Morning News, is experiencing flat circulation growth. The Morning News' circulation (from Monday to Thursday) for the six months ended March 31 was 500,357, up fractionally from the same period a year earlier, and 782,748 on Sundays, flat compared to the prior year. The Star-Telegram's circulation (from Monday to Thursday) in the same period was 230,918, up 1.2% from the year before. The paper's Sunday circulation of 334,104 was flat.

Both papers introduced major redesigns three weeks ago. On Aug. 12, the S-T, which switched to a narrower 50-inch web width last April, introduced a redesign that includes a new body typeface and revamped section fronts. The redesign was the paper's second significant makeover in the past three years. Jim Witt, S-T vice president and editor, said the paper initially planned to have the redesign coincide with the switch to the narrower width. …

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