Saturday, April 23, 2016

Standard Times Endures Readership Loss & New Owners

Journal Media Group's recent 10-K filing included statistics on readership for San Angelo's Standard Times:

1996 - 32,000 Daily paid,  39,000 Sunday 
2000 - 29,000 Daily paid,  35,000 Sunday 
2008 - 24,000 Daily paid,  28,000 Sunday 
2012 - 18,000 Daily paid,  22,000 Sunday 
2014 - 16,000 Daily paid,  18,000 Sunday
2015 - 14,000 Daily paid,  16,000 Sunday

Standard Times circulation dropped over 55% the last two decades.

It fell after the paper instituted a paywall to "restore revenue growth" in May 2013.  The company described the move:

As we implemented metered access to our digital content in 2012 and 2013, we significantly increased subscription prices to many of our subscribers. Going forward we expect to manage price increases in an effort to obtain the highest yield from our subscriber base. Many customers are price-sensitive, particularly when we have reduced content they consider valuable. In an effort to minimize customer churn and maximize profitability, we have and will continue to use analysis of customer price sensitivity to drive price increases on targeted subscribers and limit the price increases on other subscribers.

We have also implemented marketing strategies to gain new customers, primarily through digital channels with special offers designed to obtain subscribers, particularly digital customers. We have also run a number of in-paper advertisements encouraging subscribers to register their account on-line, which allows us to monetize their online activity with certain advertisers who target specific customers based on demographics, which drives higher advertising rates.
JMG's SEC filing reported the number of digital only subscribers for its 17 newspapers in 14 markets:

As of December 31, 2015, we had approximately 50,000 digital-only subscribers across all of our markets. 

JMG merged with Gannett on April 1st.  We'll see what Gannett reports next April on our local newspaper.  Until then I hope you are not the Standard Times customer having price increases driven upon them.  May you be the subscriber they pass over.

Update 4-24-17:  New owner Gannett did not publish readership statistics for the Standard Times for 2016.   Our local paper got lumped into a media organization number for Texas.   Gannett's number covered five Texas newspapers and was only for 2016.  The news organization shared no historical data. 

Update 5-3-20:  Gannet put the Standard Times' building up for sale.  The paper employed 150 people in 1950.  It now employs roughly 20 full time employees. 

Update 8-22-22:  The final episode of Reliable Sources highlighted the "accelerated decline of local media."  It stated that local media had been hollowed out by the likes of hedge funds and private equity underwriters (PEU).  A guest said without good local journalism local politicians run wild as there is no accountability.

Update 3-12-23:  The City of San Angelo bought the Standard Times building, asbestos and all.  Gannett's readership decline since 2018 is the subject of a NiemanLab news story.  

Update 9-17-23:  The Standard Times will cease local delivery of its print newspaper on October 16th, instead using the U.S. Mail for home delivery.  Long ago the paper shuttered its printing press.  The paper is currently printed in Lubbock.  It had a stint in Abilene.     

Monday, April 18, 2016

Runoff Helps Area Reservoirs

Recent rains boosted area lake levels.  In the last week the following San Angelo water sources rose:

Lake Nasworthy - +422 acre feet 
(from 8,010 acre feet to 8,432 acre feet)

Twin Buttes North Pool - +1,088 acre feet
(from 15,410 acre feet to 16,498 acre feet)

O.C. Fisher - +240 acre feet
(from 18,054 acre feet to 18,294 acre feet)

O.H. Ivie - +2084 acre feet
(from 66,866 acre feet to 68,950 acre feet)
The graph below shows why Ivie took on so much water:

Area lake inflows total 3,834 acre feet.  E.V. Spence is up nearly 1,000 acre feet as well.  This blessing should be enough to break Drought Level 1 for at least a little while.

Update 4-20-16:  Lake Ivie now has 71,340 acre feet, a rise of nearly 4,500 acre feet.  Twin Buttes is up another 200 acre feet from the readings above.

Update 4-23-16:  Ivie has more than 75,000 acre feet, an increase of more than 8,000 acre feet since City Council voted for Drought I conservation measures.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Council to Take Up Drought Level 1 Designation

The Water Advisory Board recommended San Angelo enter Drought Level 1 which results in outdoor watering restrictions and a 10% increase in water rates.  Staff spoke to aspects of their methodology for saying the city has less than a 24 month water supply.  They chose not to share their calculations. 

The City's annual water use is approximately 15,000 acre feet. City staff provided the following information on lake volumes to the Water Advisory Board:

Lake Ivie - 68,671 acre feet (of which San Angelo gets 15.8%) 
Twin Buttes Reservoir - 21,287 acre feet (15,291 in North Pool and 5,996 in South Pool)
 Water Data for Texas revealed current lake volumes for:
O.C. Fisher - 18,209 acre feet
Lake Nasworthy - 8,117 acre feet

Also, the city has the rights to 3,000 acre feet at Lake Spence (46,868 acre feet) but no functioning pipeline to get the water to San Angelo.

It's not clear how city staff reduced well over 50,000 acre feet of surface water supply down to 30,000 acre feet.  Staff projections include two summers of wicked evaporation but no rainfall.

While staff deeply discounted surface water supplies, Hickory's Aquifer's below ground water was hardly counted.  The city chose to include only the minimal amount currently being pumped per day to keep the well field operational.  That's roughly 1 million gallons of water per day or just over 3 acre feet.

A slow pumping Hickory pipeline delivers 1,120 acre feet per year or 7.5% of the city's annual water usage.  I understand the logic of not counting subsurface supplies, the reserve that will support us through a long term drought.

It seems fair that the minimum pumped from Hickory should be subtracted from our annual water needs for drought pricing purposes. Remember the significant price increases for the Hickory pipeline?  Council chose to include conservation incentives in setting up that charge structure and citizens responded. 

Marking up Hickory water another 10, 20 or 30 percent hardly seems fair.

It appears the city may enter drought level restrictions without citizens understanding the methodology for calculating how San Angelo has less than 24 month supply of water.  Council will consider a proposal that showed a 26 month supply on 3-28-16.

More needs to be said and revealed on this topic because it hits citizens square in the pocketbook.

Water usage fees - determined by two factors: how much water a customer uses and what drought level the city is under. The water rate structure is tiered; as a customer uses more water, he pays a higher rate. Those tiers compress more when San Angelo is in Drought Level 1, 2 or 3; the higher the drought level, the quicker the customer reaches the next tier.
That shouldn't happen arbitrarily or prematurely.

City Council dealt with a prior failure to follow ordinance resulting in Republic Services overcharging commercial customer via unauthorized, thus illegal, fuel surcharges.  Ironically, Republic's illegal fuel charges and the $6 million refund occurred under the watchful eye of Public Works, which is also over water.

Council should proceed thoughtfully and within their legal scope, which they have the right to change in full public view.