Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Is The Hippo ending its Concord edition?

Rumors around the publishing industry are that The Hippo, the free news and culture weekly out of Manchester, will no longer be publishing a Concord edition. During the last few weeks, readers [including yours truly] have noticed that Concord news was virtually non-existent in The Hippo, with the editions looking exactly the same as editions found in Manchester.
An email to Dan Szczesny on April 15th, requesting information about whether the Concord edition was being discontinued, was never answered.
Insiders familiar with local publishing have hinted that a cross-selling agreement between Newspapers of New England [the Concord Monitor's parent company], which publishes The Hippo, and the alternative weekly, was not going well and may be heading south.
Originally, when the Monitor's parent company agreed to publish The Hippo, there was a clause included which stated that The Hippo folks would not put out a Concord edition. In 2004, The Hippo launched a very successful Nashua edition, and a year later, after a cross-selling agreement was negotiated, started a Concord edition. Late last year, the company started a Monday through Friday micro-daily called the Manchester Daily Express.
If the cross-selling agreement were to end, The Hippo would either have to stop publishing a Concord edition or find another company, like the Phoenix Company out of Boston, to publish its newspaper. It seems as though The Hippo has decided the former.
The Concord edition consisted of a local editorial on Page 2, produced by Szczesny, and a few local stories and listings on Page 6. Other Concord content, albeit minor, was spread throughout the paper, including the cute Quality of Life meter feature.
But was the Concord edition doomed to fail from the start?
Previously, Neighborhood News, Inc., a subsidiary of the Union Leader Corporation, attempted to publish an arty weekly called The Concord Mirror [They also expanded coverage into Concord's South End neighborhood, to beef up circ]. Edited by Eric Baxter, who now writes for The Hippo's Daily Express, the paper was available both as a stand-alone and as an insert in the Bow Times. It featured a few articles and a slew of local listings, but was slim on ads. Towards the end, before Neighborhood News made it a section of the Times, effectively killing it as a stand-alone, The Mirror struggled to find its voice and had a hard time finding relevant arts content to cover.
The Hippo took a different track: They gave Concord readers the guts of the Manch paper, with a bit more local content, which limited expenses and gave readers the best of both worlds. Since many readers care about things going on in Manch, it worked.
However, advertising for the Concord edition, at best, was light, and probably not enough to sustain a full-time news reporter with a starting salary of around $25k. The ads seemed limited to a handful of restaurants and small businesses. Unlike the huge amount of advertising which can be found in Manchester and Nashua, Concord is a much smaller market. Advertising is tight, as local radio stations and the Monitor know firsthand. Most mom and pop businesses are barely hanging on and the Monitor probably found the cross-selling agreement cutting into their own business. The Monitor also launched a new weekly of its own - The Concord Insider - an insert in Tuesday's paper and a stand-alone downtown by Wednesday.
In the past year, staffing a consistent reporter to cover Concord news in the edition has also seemed to be difficult. A revolving door of reporters, most recently ex-radio gal Lisa Brown, has tried to do its best to provide content for the paper. Brown's work seemed to mostly be a collection of small, one paragraph bits of information or local listings, and not the more extensive investigative pieces Concord readers are clamoring for. Editors at The Hippo also attempted to enter into a news-sharing agreement with a local radio station, to beef up its Concord content, as did Neighborhood News when they were publishing The Mirror. But both opportunities failed to materialize when disagreements arose over whether or not content would be traded or purchased. The Hippo has previously offered Podcasting on its Web site to WTPL The local FM sports/talker. Chris Dornin, who runs a State House news service, also contributed pieces to the paper for a short time.
The paper has two employment advertisements on, a national newspaper employment Web site - "Features reporter with big dreams" and "Writer/Listings Coordinator." While it isn't known for sure, those new hires are probably not destined to cover Concord.
If this is truly the end for The Hippo's Concord edition, it is a sad day for local readers interested in more choices than just the Monitor. While The Hippo didn't offer a lot of Concord news, they at least tried. And that, is better than nothing.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Anonymous said...


The Hippo and the Ward 5 piece are both good insider writing about worthy Concord subjects. Stories that unfortunately we will not see in the Concord Monitor. Glad someone is covering these things.

April 25, 2007 8:34 PM
Anonymous said...

I never understood why they needed three editions anyway, except perhaps to maximize ad revenues.

I want to know what is happening in all three cities.

April 26, 2007 3:50 AM
Tony said...

Thanks for your comments Anon8:34 and Anon3:50. I appreciate them. I too wonder why three editions are needed. While I don't know the financials, you would think that there would be interest in all three cities for news from all three cities. For example, I shop in Nash and Manch. So, maybe I want to go at a time when I can check out a band after shopping in Nash or Manch? Maybe I want to go out to a trendy cafe or restaurant in either town before returning to Concord. How am I going to find out about those places if it isn't included? In addition, the music listings and interviews should be included in all three editions not unlike the movie reviews are - so we can find out about all the cool bands in each town. It seems like a no brainer to me.

April 26, 2007 3:56 PM