Professor Michelle Roehm offers insight on “free media”

1.7.2010 Article, Faculty News, General

Surry free newspaper Messenger appears to be done

Originally Posted on Thursday, January 7, 2010 | by Richard Craver
Reposted from The Winston-Salem Journal

A free newspaper in Surry County appears to have ceased publication after 2½ years, according to former employees and local advertisers and officials.

The most recent issue of The Messenger was published Sunday. It did not publish an issue yesterday, its next scheduled day.

The newspaper debuted in July 2007, conceived by veteran newspaper publishers Rebel Good and Mike Milligan. They wanted to compete against their former employers in Surry County — The Mount Airy News and the Elkin Tribune. Those newspapers were bought by Heartland Publications LLC in 2007.

Good, who served as the publisher of the Tribune for 29 years, retired as editor of the Messenger on Dec. 1.

Milligan, the publisher of the Messenger, could not be reached for comment. The media blog Yadkin Valley News quoted him as saying that a decline in revenue led to the decision.

The newspaper began as a daily but was reduced to three days a week about a year ago. It said it delivered copies to about 11,000 homes on Wednesdays and Fridays, and about 20,000 homes on Sundays.

Analysts said that the Messenger's demise is not surprising given that many traditional media outlets — large and small — are struggling financially.

In December, Heartland, the owner of four other small Triad newspapers and 19 overall in North Carolina, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"Free media are often at a disadvantage to paid media in that these vehicles tend to have fewer subscribers, and fewer subscriber statistics from readership surveys, etc., to woo media buyers," said Michelle Roehm, a marketing professor and a senior associate dean of faculty at the Schools of Business at Wake Forest University.

"As a result, when media budgets are cut, these sorts of outlets are often first to be deleted from the media plan."