Yet Another Harbinger of Doom for Print Media: 40 Papers Have Dropped Out of City's Racks, Many Have Likely Ceased to Exist

Categories: Business, Media
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Joe Eskenazi
The city is now filled with these 'ped-mounts' -- but how long will papers be around to fill them?
You, the guy who derives fiendish joy from mutilating SF Weekly's newspaper boxes? Your days are numbered. As we've reported before, newspapers' distinctive boxes (ours are red!) are being replaced with city-owned, Clear Channel-maintained "ped-mounts" -- the beehive-like boxes pictured above.

Palms slapped tables in newspaper boardrooms across the city earlier this year when the city doubled the rate papers must pay to store editions in these boxes from 30 to 60 bucks. On the other hand, now Clear Channel foots the bill when miscreants deface boxes or smash them to bits. So, looking at the big picture, it's a mixed deal for the papers.

But is it a good deal for Clear Channel and the city? In other words, how much longer are papers going to be willing to throw down good money -- any money -- for the privilege of storing editions in city racks? For many papers, it's just not an option. Grace Moore, who coordinates the program for the city's Department of Public Works, told SF Weekly that more than 40 papers have dropped out of the city's racks in the past several years. For many -- if not most -- of them, the rationale was simple: They went out of business. 

The city held a "re-allocation meeting" on Tuesday to see if it could interest papers in signing up to take over some of the empty boxes in the Financial District. Eleven papers showed up; 64 were there several years ago when those boxes were first divvied out in 2005.

Moore and Barbara Moy, who is DPW's bureau chief on street use and mapping, were not all doom-and-gloom, however. They were optimistic that they could fill the 154 boxes (out of 500) that were empty in the FiDi (one newspaper insider we talked to essentially said "good luck with that."). This program is "relatively breaking even" for the city, says Moore, who adds that it was never supposed to be a revenue-generator.

Still, the death of the advertising, automotive, and real-estate periodicals that used to proliferate in city racks is sobering -- as are the woes of the bigger papers throughout the realm.

"Certainly it doesn't bode well," notes Moy.

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