Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Is Many Too Many?

Unarguably The Bay Area anchored by the city of San Francisco in the US is home to many residents of Filipino descent, counting several cities with dominating percentages of such minorities, namely, Daly City, Union City, Hercules, Vallejo, Milpitas, etc.

There is little surprise then that this adequately-educated group has been targeted by certain local print media practitioners (of Filipino descent, of course) as their primary clients. Thus, many weekly newspapers blanket this large area with their colorful publications. Last I counted at least 6 or 7 of these publications are readily available within the greater San Francisco area.

It might be interesting to note here how these publications are circulated in their targeted markets. First, most important cities here in the US have what is popularly referred to as “one-newspaper town” situation, meaning essentially that each locale is serviced by only one major newspaper (applying to dailies) and economics has been attributed as mostly responsible for this. A known example is San Francisco which used to have two major dailies, the San Francisco Chronicle and The SF Examiner. While the latter still exists, it is now essentially a “free” newspaper on a reduced-size format. Now, the Filipino newspapers (typically published weekly) are of this second kind. Essentially given out free, though a couple still maintaining a semblance of being for sale by noting the price of each copy prominently on the front page. Nothing unusual since it is common practice here for free newspapers to still carry a price tag.

Guess where they are available? Typically in properly marked newsstands or shelves in certain ethnic grocery stores, or in well-patronized FilAm businesses such as bakeries or restaurants.

Not included in the picture are the Philippine News, Manila Bulletin USA, and Ang Panahon. The Philippine News is the grand-daddy of them all having been established way back in 1961. Mr. Alex Exclamado used to the publisher when we first got here in Northern California. Only the three newspapers in the picture where available during our last sortie to San Francisco, and aside from those mentioned above, there may be a couple more whose names escape my memory.

If we can accept the premise that economics dictated the rationale of a one-newspaper town, why do we have a sizeable number of newspapers serving an even smaller number of readers, even granting that the rule applied to dailies and we are querying weeklies here? And remember further that these are given out free, gratis, not even a thank you and you are welcome.

We have to assume that these are profitable ventures and that their revenue streams must not be in subscription or newspaper sales, or else why do they continue to be published. I am confident their publishers have either their altruistic streaks or for the common good idealism, but still they wouldn’t be able to sustain losses indefinitely.

Advertisements. That’s what these publications have plenty of, page after page of them ranging from coming live shows of Filipino artists to immigration services coming from the many immigration lawyers around. Most news items are anyway “canned” coming from the old homeland, and even the opinion columns, many are extracted from the national dailies in Metro Manila. One (or two) even carries the syndicated column of Ms. Michelle Malkin, the most visible and widely-read political editorialist/blogger of Filipino descent here in the US.

What else? I have noticed that these publications carry what used to be sectioned out in the old broadsheets as the society page, where social “happenings” within the local communities are either pictorially depicted or written about; but clearly in this instance a more extended and picture-dominated version . And mined from the sometimes loud verbal skirmishes within the group which somehow inadvertently wound their way to the public, I read sometime ago that this is possibly another revenue stream source. Subjects pay some “publication” fees to have their children’s graduation, marriage, trip to the old homeland, a well-attended sumptuous despedida or bienvenida, etc., featured or written about. Can its veracity be confirmed?

Anyway, what appears unchallenged is that these publications must of themselves be profitable because if not, the intractable laws of economics will invariably set in to write finis to them.

Thus, again the market holds sway, the number of newspapers being determined primarily by what the market can bear.

4 comments:

  1. Its no wonder that most of these papers you describe are handed out gratis. What with the internet and 24 hour cable news available to provide as much information as anyone could possibly absorb and assimilate at virtually anytime, how can any newspaper stay in print? I can't remember the last time I read one.

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  2. But, Phil, the color of choice is still green. If these ventures continue to be make money, they will be out there for the taking.

    And these are not just on-the-fly operations. The smaller-sized ones can go as long as 40 pages.

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  3. This seems to be a manifestation of the gaya-gaya entrepreneurship strategy common back here. For instance, when a food stall in the neighborhood seems to be making good business, others follow suit by building food stalls right next to it. The downside is that with increasing number of competitors, the stalls would experience reduced profits.

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  4. It appears to be somewhat like that, Dave.

    Of maybe, there are just many ex-media operatives who migrated from the old homeland. And now they have found an outlet for their collective experiences.

    Anyway, the market self-regulates.

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