December 2019

Behind the Scene

by Randy Limbird
Editor & Publisher, El Paso Scene


My earliest memories of newspapers are sitting on dad’s lap and trying to read along. We subscribed to both the morning and afternoon papers for most of my childhood. As an adult, reading the paper has been as much a part of my morning routine as my first cup of coffee. That era has finally ended. Just a few minutes before writing this column, I officially cancelled my print subscription to the El Paso Times. The inspiration for this decision, oddly enough, came from El Paso Times business reporter Vic Kolenc. In a response to a Facebook post of mine regarding the declining circulation of the El Paso Times, Kolenc wrote: “Don't judge the Times by its print edition because that, unfortunately, is much different than the online product. Journalism is now an electronic venture for the most part.” Since the print edition was costing me $39 a month and the online edition only costs me $8 a month, I figured I would take Kolenc at his word and make the switch. I’ll let you know how that goes in future editions of this column. For background, the Facebook post that started all this was one that reported on the El Paso Times’ most recent statement of circulation. According to that statement publised in October, the daily distribution of the El Paso Times is 14,285 copies. That’s a drop of 22 percent from one year ago, and more than 53 percent from four years ago. In my Facebook post, I pointed out that El Paso Scene publishes an average of 40,000 copies each month. Our pickup rate averages about 95 percent, so average total distribution runs about 38,000 — which is more than 2½ times the distribution, per copy, of the Times. Kolenc said it was unfair for me to compare the Scene's free monthly circulation to the Times paid daily circulation. Obviously we are completely different publications, but we compete in a common battle for advertising dollars. For anyone who still believes that print can communicate certain messages better than other media, El Paso Scene represents the maximum value available in the El Paso market. That’s me talking as a publisher. As an editor (who also worked seven years at the Times), my concern is that the decline of the daily newspaper’s print edition means less coverage of local news. The El Paso Times newsroom has been decimated by cuts over the years, and fewer reporters means less news, whether it comes out in print or online. In the publishing industry, the adage is that “Digital dimes don’t replace analog dollars.” That means few newspapers will make up their loss in print advertising through online ad revenue. Although there is plenty of money to be made from online advertising, newspapers’ online products fight for those dollars against every other form of social media and news found on the internet. You don’t need a printing press to compete with the newspaper, just a computer or smartphone. There’s no evidence that the El Paso Times’ online focus will succeed. In fact, their paid online subscriptions are going down, not up. The Times reported 1,413 paid electronic copies on its 2019 statement, which was down from 1,576 a year earlier. At least they added one more online subscriber this month.* * * El Paso Scene once again will host its winter Hike Up Cristo Rey, beginning at noon Monday, Dec. 30, sponsored by Destination El Paso. Meet me in the parking lot at the Mount Cristo Rey trailhead (follow Cristo Rey Road off of NM 273) for a pleasant 5-mile hike filled with commentary on area history and geography.

Here's the Ticket
Program Notes
On Stage
Southwest Art Scene
At the Museum
History Lessons
Film Scene
Keep on Bookin'
Becoming Bicultural
Liner Notes
Stage Talk
Gallery Talk
Better Parenting


Copyright 2019 by Cristo Rey Communications.