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Media saturation.

Times, News Newspaper War Is at Center Court in Robust Northwest Arkansas Competition

THE PERFECT METAPHOR for the broad, interwoven northwest Arkansas business community can be found in the fabric of the region's media network.

Between Benton and Washington counties, there are an astounding four daily newspapers and eight weeklies, not counting the imported Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or Tulsa World. Sixteen radio stations have market share in the two counties, including two from other states. And four television stations broadcast from the two counties.

As in any crowded marketplace, a few fights have broken out: most notably the intense, yet civilized, circulation war between the Northwest Arkansas Times of Fayetteville and The Morning News of Springdale, two morning dailies.

The Times, owned by Des Plaines, Ill.-based Thomson Newspapers, was at last account lagging in the race with a seven-day average daily circulation of 12,939, according to unaudited figures in the Standard Rate and Data Service's Newspaper Rates & Data. The Morning News, owned by Donrey Media Group, had daily circulation of 17,536.

The two newspapers quietly coexisted in their respective towns of influence until May 1, 1990, when the Springdale paper moved from afternoon to morning delivery and opened a news bureau in Fayetteville. The News quickly realized the fruits of its efforts, with a jump in average daily circulation from 12,966 in September 1989 to 14,230 in September 1990, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Over the same year, the Times' daily circulation increased more modestly, from 12,126 to 12,789. Finally, on the two-year anniversary of the News' conversion to morning delivery, the Times staffers also became morning people. The paper countered the News by opening bureaus in Springdale and Siloam Springs and began publishing a zoned edition packaged for readers in those two cities.

The Times thus joined a battle as much against its own tarnished image as it was against its cross-county nemesis.

"We've changed the approach of the newspaper," says Times Editor John Walker, referring to several changes the newspaper has made in its editorial product during the past eight months. "We had a reputation for having a lot of mistakes ... and telling only one side of an issue. We've worked hard to regain the credibility of this newspaper."

On Mondays, the paper publishes a series of feature stories called Ozark profiles, followed on Tuesdays by a question-and-answer feature with newsmakers. The Sunday opinion page has been expanded, and more man-on-the-street interviews are interspersed throughout the week.

Times, They Are a-Changing

The Times is using more locally produced graphics than before, and it has started publishing a section called Northwest Arkansas Business Times every Monday. An entertainment feature called "What's Up" has been included in the Friday paper for some time. And the Times now offers a 12-page Sports Saturday package that includes scores from all the state high school football games and game stories on all 17 area high schools.

The Times also has formed an odd news alliance with the Benton County Daily Record of Bentonville, a paper with which it has no other business connection. The two publications share as many as five stories a day to increase their coverage areas.
TV Ratings for Fort Smith Market

Station City Rating Share

KFSM Fort Smith 6 23
KHBS-KHOG Fort Smith-Fay. 6 21
KPOM-KFAA Fort Smith-Rog. 3 10
KTUL Tulsa 1 5
KPBI-KDRB Fort Smith-Sprg. 1 3
KAFT Tulsa 1 3

These ratings represent average weekly viewership for July 1993
for the Sunday through Saturday, 6 a.m.-2 a.m. "daypart." A
"share" is the percentage of possible viewers in the market,
and a "rating" is the percentage of actual viewers.

Finally, there has been a concerted effort on the part of the Times to deepen its involvement in the community, supporting major events and worthy causes.

Apparently, the efforts have met with some success. Jay Westerfield, Times circulation director, reports that the paper's seven-day average circulation for September rose to 14,305, the highest point ever for the publication, although it is unaudited. About 5,100 of those subscribers live in Springdale, Westerfield says.
Northwest Arkansas Radio

Audience Share(*) for stations in Benton and Washington
Counties, Spring 1993

Station Share City of License

KKIX-FM, 103.9 27.0 Fayetteville
KMCK-FM, 105.7 8.4 Siloam Springs
KKEG-FM, 92.1 6.8 Fayetteville
KEZA-FM, 107.9 6.8 Fayetteville
KBEV-FM, 104.9 6.1 Fayetteville
KBVA-FM, 106.5 5.7 Bella Vista
KAMO-FM, 94.3 4.7 Rogers
KISK-FM, 101.9 3.7 Lowell
KURM-AM, 790 3.4 Fayetteville
KOLZ-FM, 98.3 2.7 Bentonville
KFAY-AM, 1030 2.4 Farmington
KDAB-FM, 94.9 2.4 Prairie Grove
KESE-FM, 93.3 2.0 Seligman, Mo.
KOFC-AM, 1250 2.0 Farmington
KRMG-AM, 740 0.7 Tulsa, Okla.
KAMO-AM, 1390 0.7 Rogers

* Share figures are the percentage of radio listeners aged 12
and over tuned into a particular station, based on the average
quarter-hour from 6 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Sunday.
The percentages do not add to 100 percent because of unreported

On the flip side, the Morning News had captured 4,311 subscribers in the "enemy" territory of Fayetteville as of the September 1992 ABC audit.

The conversion to the morning cycle inspired the Morning News to beef up its staff and supplement state, national and international news with the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. The addition of former Arkansas Gazette reporters gave a boost to the sports and business sections.

And the Springdale paper created its own news alliance, swapping stories with the Northwest Arkansas Morning News in Rogers, another Donrey-owned paper. In fact, the Springdale and Rogers papers actually publish several identical pages of regional and national news and advertising.

The News has developed a Friday arts and entertainment section and features a Friday section front devoted to business coverage.

The biggest change, however, was the paper's move to larger, more efficient office space in November 1991.

"The Times still has more readers in Fayetteville than we do, but over the years that gap has been closing," City Editor Dave Edmark says. "We weren't much of a player in Fayetteville, but now we are."

The newspapers often cover the same stories, but even a casual glance reveals differences in style. Headlines in the Times tend to be gigantic and attention-grabbing, while Morning News headlines are so small they often seem to be apologizing for themselves.

Bold vs. Traditional

"We go in for the more traditional, dignified look," Edmark says. "We go in for a lot of analytical stories and put our human interest stories in the lifestyles and community sections."

In all, the competition seems to have improved quality on both sides.

"I think the a.m. cycle is more productive than the p.m. cycle," Edmark says. "This has really helped the overall news market here. The biggest nightmare I would have is to end up like Little Rock with one daily newspaper."

As important as these newspapers have become to the local culture, they are only two pieces in the vast puzzle of northwest Arkansas media.

The Northwest Arkansas Morning News of Rogers has almost 16,000 subscribers, and Bentonville's Benton County Daily Record has a little more than 8,000.

For those who enjoy a slower reading pace, the weekly newspaper menu includes the Weekly Vista of Bella Vista (4,751 paid circulation, according to the Arkansas Press Association 1993 directory); The Courier-Journal of Gentry (1,257); the Gravette News-Herald (1,917); the Times of Northeast Benton County in Pea Ridge (1,670); the Lincoln Leader (1,421); the Prairie Grove Enterprise (1,689) and the Washington County Observer of West Fork (2,635).

In all, that's two more APA-member dailies and three more weeklies than the number available in Pulaski County, and Washington and Benton counties combined have just 60 percent of Pulaski's population.

The television market is even more far-flung.

Warner Cable of Fayetteville carries nine network affiliates in its channel lineup, including one station from Little Rock, one from Fort Smith, three from Tulsa, Okla., two from Fayetteville, one from Springdale and one from Rogers.

The Fayetteville-Fort Smith television market enjoys about $15 million in net revenue each year, ranking it as the 117th largest television "area of dominant influence" in the nation, according to BIA Publications' Television Yearbook.

There are 192,000 television households in the ADI, distributed across a population of 511,036.

But here is an interesting note: An Arkansas media consultant who asked not to be named says 37 percent of the viewing in the Fort Smith-Fayetteville area is of stations that can be received over the air. That means 63 percent of the viewers are watching cable networks, Tulsa network affiliates and the like rather than their own local affiliates.

In the Little Rock market, the consultant says, the over-the-air channels dominate about 80 percent of the viewing time.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:northwest Arkansas media industry
Author:Haman, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Oct 11, 1993
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