10 Years After the War: Is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Really ‘The Best of Both'?

by Lance Turner  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

Walter E. Hussman Jr. is publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and president of Wehco Media. (Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Nature abhors a vacuum, and newspapering is no exception. So in the absence of the Gazette, other media have rushed to claim ad dollars.

In post-war Little Rock, the monthly Arkansas Times was able to thrive as a free weekly. The Times of North Little Rock grew. Arkansas Business, which Starr credited with setting a new standard for business coverage for the dailies, prospered while the D-G’s business section was often criticized for its dearth of local stories.

But advertising became more expensive under the daily newspaper monopoly.

“I think that advertising prices were pretty depressed here in this market because of that competition,” said Frank Cox, CEO of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, the state’s largest advertising agency. “I’m not surprised prices went up after one paper prevailed.”

Higher rates sent smaller advertisers to the smaller publications. But rates for those papers increased as well, leaving some would-be advertisers unsure of what to do.

“I’ve heard from some merchants who just feel like they can’t advertise in a newspaper anymore because the rates are so high,” McCord said.

But John Signaigo, vice president and general manager for Clear Channel Broadcasting, which owns radio stations including KMJX-FM, 105.1, and KSSN-FM, 95.7, said the market was getting more expensive anyway.

“I think the natural progression of costs to produce the product have gone up. In order to cover cost, commercial time has to go up accordingly,” Signaigo said. “And I think that it’s been nothing more than that.”

Cox said he agrees that the loss of the Gazette was beneficial to other publications seeking advertisers. But with other advertising media emerging, the void would have been filled anyway.

“The Gazette and the Democrat deal, and the fact that one paper took the other one over, that was a small pimple in the cosmos with regard to the context of how media itself has changed in the last decade,” he said.

Cable television reached full force, and the Internet was coming to prominence by the mid-’90s. Digital cable now will give advertisers even more choices, and easier access to broadband Internet continues to fractionalize the ad market.

“I don’t think that there’s any way in the world that both of them would have remained,” Cox said. “... There weren’t enough dollars back then that were target newspaper dollars and were going to be targeted to newspapers to sustain both those newspapers. ...”



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