By further cutting back on its stock tables, the Los Angeles Times has joined newspapers all over the country as the combination of high newsprint prices and easy availability of market information on the Internet makes financial agate increasingly expendable.
The paper said it received more than 100 complaints from among its 1.3 million Sunday readers on the decision this month to shrink the Business section to five from seven pages. Gone are stock listings for small cap New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq issues, mutual funds with the lowest asset values, preferred shares listings and weekly high and low stock prices.
It was the second cut to the Business section in as many years. In 2004, the Times condensed its daily stock listings to four pages from five, eliminating listings of price-earnings ratios and 52-week highs and lows.
"Every department has been asked to look hard at its budget to meet the overall news budget," said Rick Wartzman, the Times' business editor. An "even more drastic scenario" had been on the table, he said, although he declined to elaborate.
Wartzman said most of the complaints have come from readers who own shares in companies whose listings are no longer carried. The readership complaints were first reported on the Web site laobserved.com.
"This is not something we did lightly. We hate to see people complain," he said. "To make budget, we are trying to balance the interests and needs of our readers."
It is a balance other newspapers are trying to strike and cost savings are only a part of it. As Web usage has ballooned, readers have discovered that getting financial information from electronic sources has its advantages.
"In print, (a listing) is static. It is from the day before," said Kevin Sweeney, Web managing editor for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. "If you look at it online, you can see if news is affecting the stock price, if it is causing it to go up and down."
Incremental move to Web
Still, the transition away from print to the Web has been gradual. Brad Skillman, director of markets information for the Associated Press, said that 10 percent to 15 percent of readers identify themselves as using newspaper stock listings in the news cooperative's surveys.
"No one is really getting to the point where they are eliminating stock tables," he said. "You are seeing newspapers take a look at printing stock tables and trying to see what role they fit into their paper."
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