Newspapers Weigh Cutting Stock Pages

By Steven Levingston
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 2, 2006

Readers of the Rocky Mountain News used to get 7 1/2 pages of stock tables in their daily newspaper, but now they have to go online for nearly all the financial listings. Only one page of statistics remains in the print edition -- a mere nod to what was once a fundamental service that all papers brought their readers.

"Frankly, it's had almost no measurable impact on our circulation," said John Temple, who began slashing the financial data after he became editor of the Denver newspaper in 1998. "The world changes. We can't just continue to do the same thing and think that is what the reader wants from us in 2006 or 2007."

The Rocky Mountain News has been among the most aggressive in wiping out stock tables. Many other papers have moved some of their listings online, and if they haven't, they're getting close.

The changes often rankle readers used to checking yesterday's General Motors stock price over coffee at the breakfast table. But as newspaper circulation declines and newsprint prices rise, pressure is building on publishers to cut costs and move more of their franchise to the Internet.

Some of the nation's biggest dailies are considering significant changes to their stock tables. "Elimination of the stock tables is something we have considered and will continue to evaluate," New York Times spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis said in an e-mail.

The Los Angeles Times is considering modifying its listings. "However, we're not prepared to disclose details of our plans until we've first informed our readers," David Garcia, a Times spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Washington Post spokesman Eric Grant would not say whether the newspaper is considering trimming its stock tables.

Temple said that some readers were upset by his cuts but that logic drove his actions. Investors, he said, are mostly higher-income people who probably have Internet connections at home and want up-to-the-minute stock prices rather than the day-old figures a newspaper provides.

Moving the tables online has saved the paper considerable amounts in newsprint costs -- which, Temple said, are rising 15 percent this year. He has been able to invest more in the newsroom, increasing his staff by about 10 percent during the tough newspaper years of 2001 to 2005, he said.

"One of the things you're able to do by not committing swaths of newsprint to agate is that you can use it for other purposes," Temple said of the small type typically used for stock listings.

The stock-table debate underscores the growing convergence of newspapers' print and online operations. Once the geeky cousin kept at arm's length, newspaper Web sites are playing a growing role in disseminating the news.

In recent months, both the New York Times and USA Today merged their online and print newsrooms. And Dow Jones & Co. last week put its Internet and newspaper operations together in a new unit under a corporate-wide restructuring.

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