Amid newspaper woes, NY Times launches San Francisco edition

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The New York Times launches a San Francisco edition on Friday as US newspapers, facing a precipitous decline in advertising and the challenge of the Web, search for new markets and new revenue.

The San Francisco edition will feature expanded coverage of the Bay Area, where the main newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is struggling, and is part of an initiative the Times plans to extend to Chicago and other US cities.

The Times said the Bay Area section will initially appear in the Friday and Sunday editions of the newspaper and focus on "public affairs, culture and lifestyles in San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, the East Bay and the region."

It said the Bay Area report will be written and edited by the 10-member San Francisco bureau of the Times but longer-term the newspaper plans to enter into a collaboration with local journalists and news organizations.

"We believe there is potential to collaborate with local publishers by printing and distributing pages in The Times and adding regional content online," said Times president and general manager Scott Heekin-Canedy.

"The right alliances will bring together trusted brands and will provide additional quality local content for our readers," he said in a statement.

"At a time when so many news organizations are in a forced retreat, it's exciting to be part of a venture that has set out to build more and better news coverage," added Times executive editor Bill Keller.

The move comes as the Times battles The Wall Street Journal and USA Today in a fight for readers nationwide and as US newspapers in general search for ways to address shrinking print advertising revenue and a glut of free news online.

US newspaper advertising revenue fell by 29 percent in the second quarter to 6.8 billion dollars, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

Print advertising revenue declined 30.1 percent to 6.2 billion dollars and online advertising revenue -- once seen as a potential savior for the industry -- fell 15.9 percent to 653.1 million dollars.

With advertising revenue evaporating, top US newspaper executives have not only been looking to expand into new markets but also furiously examining ways to begin charging readers for news on the Web.

The Times, the Journal and USA Today are the three leading US dailies with a national audience and the Journal this week claimed to be the top US newspaper in terms of circulation, leapfrogging USA Today.

The Journal said its weekday circulation had grown to 2.02 million at the end of September, surpassing that of USA Today, which said last week that its circulation declined 17 percent between April and September to 1.88 million.

The Times has not yet released its circulation figures for the past six months but it reported circulation of 1.04 million at the end of March.

The Times may soon find itself battling the Journal in San Francisco.

The Journal is also reportedly planning a San Francisco edition, targeting a market where Hearst Corp. threatened to close the money-losing San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year if unions did not agree to major cost cuts.

Hearst shut down another West Coast daily, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in March, one month after the final edition of the E.W. Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News rolled off the presses in Denver, Colorado.

The shuttering of the Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News have been among the most dramatic developments in a year in which the newspaper industry has also seen a wave of bankruptcies and job cuts.

The declining fortunes were further illustrated this week in the sale of once high-flying magazine BusinessWeek to the Bloomberg financial news agency and the decision by the New York Times Co. not to sell the Boston Globe.

BusinessWeek, valued in 2000 at one billion dollars, sold for a price reported to be between two million dollars and five million dollars.

The Times, which bought the Boston Globe for 1.1 billion dollars in 1993, pulled it off the market after receiving what the newspaper reported were bids of only around 35 million dollars.