From Pulse to Par: media updates


Pulse to Cease Web Publishing

After its weekly print publication shut down more than a month ago, the last vital sign of Pulse of the Twin Cities — its daily news website — is fading away. “Pulse is dead,” music editor Dwight Hobbes confirmed in an email. “It hasn’t been on the stands in six weeks and won’t be online after [tomorrow, June 29].”

On Wednesday, Pulse sales director David Goldstein emailed an advertiser, “Things are going well with our transition to a daily online magazine.” The ad-rate sheet he attached stated the site gets “1.3 million hits and 70,000 unique visitors per month.” But apparently that traffic wasn’t translating into incomes big enough to sustain the operation.

Hobbes said Pulse “hemorrhaged cash for a decade after which [publisher] Ed Felien closed shop. He’s closing for the same reason.”

The site’s demise concludes a turbulent few months for Minneapolis-based Pulse. In May, Felien abruptly fired former music editor Steve McPherson and writer Max Sparber, who authored a 2007 Frank Premack Award-winning Pulse story on homelessness with Steve Butcher, Lydia Howell and Phil Willkie. According to a comment by McPherson on MNspeak, where Sparber is now editor, Felien disagreed with his taking content he’d created for the Pulse music blog to his new site. “Ed seemed to feel that he owned that content, despite me not actually being paid for doing it — beyond updating it at work in-between other projects — and spending a lot of free time on it,” he wrote. Felien quickly posted a classified ad looking for a new managing editor.

Reached Friday morning, Felien confirmed the news, stating that there aren’t enough ads coming in to fund the publication. He said there were few other cost-cutting options left to him. “It’s pretty bare bones right now. I don’t know what else we could cut.”

Felien, who started Pulse a decade ago, also publishes Southside Pride, a weekly that serves the Nokomis, Riverside, and Phillips/Powderhorn neighborhoods. He says that publication will continue.

Ridder Got $600,000 Severance Package from the Pioneer Press

When former publisher Par Ridder left the Pioneer Press in March, he admitted taking sensitive computer data on finances, personnel, advertising, and circulation with him. But he made off with something else, too — a $600,000 severance package. PiPress attorney Phil Sechler revealed the information in a final day of hearings over Ridder’s departure and his attempts to poach top executives as he left, the Pioneer Press reports.

The three days of hearings concluded on Wednesday, and the next step, the filing of closing arguments in writing, must be completed by July 16. But don’t expect a swift decision, says Ramsey County District Court Judge David Higgs. He might take two months to decide whether to grant the Pioneer Press a temporary injunction that would prevent Ridder and two other former PiPress executives from beginning work at the Star Tribune for one year.

“I’d be real surprised if that’s before the end of the summer,” he said.

Ridders’ Big Brother Moment — And the Perils of Hyper-Local News

Tony Ridder testifies: The Pioneer Press’ Jennifer Bjorhus has been doing some great reporting on this week’s hearings over Par Ridder’s actions as he left the St. Paul paper for the Star Tribune. Is it just me, or does her description of Par’s father testifying have an Orwellian tinge?

“Creating a uniquely Ridder moment in Ramsey Count District Court, Tony Ridder beamed down from a large screen on the courtroom wall, testifying via videotape that Par, then publisher of the Pioneer Press, ‘had full authority’ to pull out and waive the noncompete agreements at the newspaper himself, without getting approval from higher-ups at Knight Ridder.” Bjorhus also reports that Ridder’s noncompete agreement states directly, “This Agreement may not be modified except in writing and signed by the parties.”

Quotable Joe: Columnist Joe Soucheray, also writing at the Pioneer Press, thinks MediaNews honcho Dean Singleton has the wrong approach to the noncompetes: “Personally, I would do everything possible to make sure these three characters had to keep their jobs in Minneapolis — that the owners, Avista Capital Partners, could not, under any circumstances, replace them. They did not accomplish anything here of note and did not even manage to take any information with them when they left the Pioneer Press that was thought to be useful, according to their new bosses. In other words, they brought their best stuff, but because they might very well be incompetent, it didn’t amount to much.”

Highland VIllager merges with Avenues

St. Paul community papers merge: “As it turns out, you can go hyper-local with community news and still fall on tough times in this business,” writes City Hall Scoop in a story that announces Avenues, sister paper to The Villager, has shut down. Mike Mischke, who publishes both St. Paul community papers, says the Scoop’s reporting isn’t quite right: He says content from the less profitable Avenues will be folded in to the larger and older Villager and that the remaining paper will have the same monthly circulation as both Avenues and Villager combined. The Villager’s new look debuts Aug. 8.