News: Knight-Ridder Ultimatum to Strip Syndicates? posted July 12, 2004
July 12 -- In its July 19 issue, Newsweek magazine is reporting that Knight-Ridder, the San Jose-based company that owns 31 daily papers in the United States, has asked for a 20 percent reduction in rates for its comics. Further, the magazine states that Knight-Ridder has threatened to cancel more than $100,000 of business if the syndicates do not reply in the affirmative. Occasional newspapers balking at the cost of strips have long been news, and newspapers asking for special dispensation in order to meet budgetary goals have long been a fact of life in the comic strip business. As recently as January the Philadelphia Inquirer asked its client syndicates to allow them six months of free comic strips in a move it believed to be cost-cutting necessity. The syndicates politely and forcefully declined, although rumors persist that at least two came to an agreement with the newspaper along the lines asked for before backing out.
The difference between earlier requests and this reported incident is that Knight-Ridder represents a significant number of newspapers and that the company has a reputation in journalism as a near-ruthless hawk in regards to the bottom line -- putting comics on the potential chopping block in terms of representing a certain degree of profitability rather than moving from a deficit red to a money-making black. The general issue of comics' place in the newspapers has been complicated in recent years with a general decline in newspaper readership and the rising role of the Internet as either a place to see comics for free or as an alternative publication model.