First day of the new year, reading through the S.F. Chronicle, ho-hum. Governator Arnie’s got a plan, despite being holed up in Sun Valley skiing, the local sports columnist wonders if Barry Bonds might make it back into the major leagues, despite facing Federal prison for allegedly lying under oath, and the fog obscured the New Year’s Eve fireworks (a personal bummer, since we expended much energy to ensure we had a good view of the Bay).

What’s this?

AsianWeek, an influential force politically and culturally for San
Francisco Asian Americans for 30 years, will publish its final print
edition on Friday, another victim in the shrinking newspaper industry.

AsianWeek will continue to publish online, at,
and produce special editions about Asian American business,
professional development, heritage and other issues and will still host
events, but the print edition is going away because of economic
realities, Ted Fang, editor and publisher, said in an interview

AsianWeek Front Page: No mention here that the print edition is dead.

Oh, great. It’s a new year, and the first day in, and already I’m getting hit with more news about the newspaper crisis. I just spent the last week masticating the implications of the death of big-market dailies.  I’m editing stories over the break that are all about the moves that papers should make, tools that they should use to reinvent themselves.  And still…?

“There are fewer major newspapers, fewer newspaper readers and fewer
newspaper advertisers than ever before,” Fang and his brother, James
Fang, the president of the company, write in a letter to readers
published in Friday’s final edition. “A faltering economy has
accelerated the decline,” they write.

This is particularly troubling for me, because on the surface, this paper would seem to have a lot of the attributes that a Print 2.0 operation going into the future should have – that is, tightly focused on a well-defined niche market that’s under-served. The potential audience is affluent, and there are many local sponsors that should be anxious to reach them.  So why’d the Fangs kill it?

I’m not going to point the finger at the ownership, although many in the Bay Area are already pointing to earlier misadventures with the Examiner. Even taking that disaster into consideration, there remains the fact that the Fangs had started out with AsianWeek, and that they surely would protect the basis of their family fortune.  Having jackasses for owners has never seemed to hurt the profitability of many, many other narrowly focused niche publications. Well, unless they were criminally incompetent & kleptomaniacal.

So what was it? Was the audience too assimilated to really crave a niche publication? Was the content strategy wrong and in need of adjustment? Did the ad sales staff do its job right? Despite the announcement, the website is still accepting subscription money (and quite pricey subscriptions they are, too).

I find it interesting that they are still maintaining the web presence. So either they feel that the audience in tech-savvy San Francisco & its environs has all migrated online … or they’re just doing this as a stopgap measure while they prepare to let the paper just fade away.  Looking at their website, it’s hard to imagine that they’re really making a lot from it – the ads are pretty sparse and there doesn’t seem to be that much inventory.  If they’re preparing some master stroke, some game-changing niche multimedia play, I’d love to see it.  The columnist for the paper wrote a fiery epic about what having an independent voice dedicated to an overlooked ethnic group meant to the Asian community.

But if that’s true, then why did the paper fail?

It’ll be interesting in the next couple of months to see which papers manage to survive and which decide to follow the growing lead, and kill the print edition entirely and move to the web.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,