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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Joke: Onion Confirms It's Peeling Out of San Francisco, Los Angeles

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2009 at 10:20 AM

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The Onion Newspaper -- self-billed as "America's Finest News Source" -- is proof positive that, in this business, "quality" is no guarantee against failure. The paper's Chicago corporate office today released a statement confirming Web reports that the San Francisco and Los Angeles print editions have gone the way of the dodo. From the statement:

So, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision whether to pump money into parts of the company that are straining us financially (LA and SF print) or reroute that capital into the areas of the company that are growing in size and value.

We chose the latter.

The company claims readership had actually increased in San Francisco and L.A.  despite a cut in the paper's press run -- but it opted to pull the plug due to "abysmal" advertising. Glancing at the April 30 edition -- and working in this business -- this comes as no surprise:  the latest Onion is only 24 pages long, features a full-page, color house ad on the lucrative back cover (never a good sign) and, overall, has an alarmingly low ad count. 

Anyone who's ever perused the Onion compendium Our Dumb Century can attest that, while the articles are hit-or-miss, the look and feel of the newspapers through the ages is stirringly spot-on. Sadly, today's announcement confirms that the same is true in the present day.

Click the jump for the Onion's full statement:

As most of you have heard through the very twisted grapevine by now, we have decided to shut down our print operations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Both staffs were informed in person yesterday that their last editions would be published this week. It is an unpleasant task to discontinue print in those two cities--and to lay off the good people who worked hard to make them profitable--but I believe it is the wise business decision to make.

At the quarterly Board meeting in Chicago two weeks ago, we took a hard look at the company's business operations in this very tough economic environment. Overall, we are weathering the storm, and, as you know, we have avoided taking many of the draconian measures employed by other media companies. Unfortunately, despite healthy readership in both Los Angeles and San Francisco (readership has actually risen despite our reduction in copies in recent months) the advertising in both cities has been abysmal.

This stands in stark contrast to other parts of our business--both the majority of our print markets (Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, Denver, Boulder, for example) as well as our rapidly growing digital enterprises (theonion.com, avclub.com, the Onion News Network and Decider.com--which are growing nicely and in some cases dramatically. So, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision whether to pump money into parts of the company that are straining us financially (LA and SF print) or reroute that capital into the areas of the company that are growing in size and value.

We chose the latter.

We love our print publications. They are the foundation of the Onion and, in the majority of our markets, they make us money. We have no plans at this time to cease publication in any of our other markets.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more

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