Obama inauguration makes history, boosts newspaper sales

NEW YORK – Barack Obama’s inauguration as president gave struggling newspapers another sales boost yesterday as readers temporarily looked beyond the Internet and snatched up multiple printed copies as keepsakes.

At News World in downtown Washington, Moira Tsanga indiscriminately grabbed copies of any newspaper that had Obama splashed across the front page.

“I’m getting some for my mother in Zimbabwe,” said Tsanga, who is from the southern African country but now lives in Virginia.

Rhonda Hazelock also stopped by seeking to commemorate Tuesday’s historic event – just as she had the morning after Obama was elected. She had her hands full as she clutched nine newspapers, including The Washington Post and The Washington Times.

“I have almost all of them,” Hazelock said. She planned to give some of the papers to her boss and frame the rest or use them for a scrapbook.

The Obama-driven demand won’t lift a newspaper industry besieged by falling advertising revenue, but the one-time sales boost could help avert a layoff or two down the road, while serving as a reminder that even the Internet can’t replace the value of printed newspapers in marking history.

Some editions of both The Washington Post and The Washington Times, archrivals in the city that is a veritable news machine, carried identical headlines proclaiming: “Obama Takes Charge.”

The New York Times’ front page displayed a large photo of Obama and his wife, Michelle, walking along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House. The headline blared, “Obama Takes Oath, and Nation in Crisis Embraces The Moment” in two large rows across the top.

The San Francisco Chronicle had a full-page photograph of the couple under the headline, “The World Has Changed,'” while the front page of a 28-page special inaugural section in the Los Angeles Times included a nearly full-page photograph of the crowd on the Mall in Washington.

Newspapers, caught off-guard by enormous demand for post-Election Day souvenir copies, were better prepared this week as they printed additional copies, hired hawkers and made other preparations to keep retailers amply supplied yesterday and Tuesday.

As a result, the Chicago Tribune didn’t see the long lines around its headquarters building this time. Tribune spokesman Michael Dizon said “sales are going at a pretty healthy pace” in Obama’s hometown, while Chicago Sun-Times spokeswoman Tammy Chase reported strong sales even after more than doubling the usual press run.

USA Today printed 3 million copies yesterday, 700,000 more than usual. Demand was lower compared with Nov. 5, but “still high,” said Alexandra Nicholson, a spokeswoman at the newspaper. “We did experience sellouts yesterday and are getting word of them today.”

Although sales figures for yesterday were not yet fully available, they were expected to exceed those for Tuesday, an edition that carried the date of the inauguration but not the coverage that readers might want as a memento.

The Washington Times sold 286,000 papers Tuesday, triple the usual number.

The larger newspaper in the nation’s capital, The Washington Post, estimates sales reaching 95 percent of the 1.55 million copies produced Tuesday, including an afternoon “extra” edition. The newspaper, which normally sells about 600,000 copies a day, had an even larger print run of 1.8 million yesterday.

The Post temporarily increased single-copy prices Tuesday and yesterday to $2, from 75 cents, saying it had higher distribution costs. By contrast, the Chicago Tribune sold its one-section afternoon extra for only a quarter, down from the normal 75 cents.

The Los Angeles Times sold out its initial printing. The paper, which sells about 740,000 copies each weekday, added 350,000 copies yesterday, spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said. Demand could drive those numbers higher.

Both the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe reported higher-than-usual demand for yesterday’s newspaper. The Globe even carried a front-page ad for the first time – the date, as chosen by the advertiser, was no accident, spokesman Bob Powers said.

Kostas Rigas, owner of the International News ‘ Tobacco newsstand in Boston, said he didn’t receive extra copies of either paper and sold out of both quickly.

“They go real fast. If there’s an event … people just go crazy and want the newspaper,” Rigas said. “There’s somebody asking every 10 or 20 minutes, or they look for it and they walk away.”

Many newspapers went beyond selling newspapers to capitalize on demand. A blue booth was set up outside the Los Angeles Times’ downtown building, where dozens of people lined up to purchase commemorative copies of the newspaper and other merchandise, including $25 mug sets and $80 framed replica printing plates of yesterday’s front page.

“I love to keep a piece of history,” math tutor Tahanee Fischer, 23, said as she bought commemorative packages with newspaper and printing plates.

Despite being a Republican, college student Ryan Gonzales, 22, wanted to commemorate change: “When I have my children and grandchildren, it would be a good thing to have.”