Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Losing bid

I'm just back from a meeting of Yellowstone County commissioners, who voted 2-0 , with John Ostlund absent, to award their legal advertising contract to The Billings Gazette again this year.

This was the first year the Outpost was eligible to bid, thanks to changes in the last legislative session, and we submitted the low bid. Our bid would have increased county spending on legal ads by 6 percent over the next two years; the Gazette's will increase the cost by 28 percent.

Commissioners accepted the staff recommendation that the Gazette's bid was better because of its higher circulation.

I thought, for a variety of reasons, that we might have a chance to win this thing. Last week, Missoula County commissioners awarded their legal advertising contract to the Missoula Independent, which also had the low bid. Because of our own low rates on legal ads, legal advertising in our pages continues to grow.

All to no avail. Yellowstone County taxpayers can take some consolation in knowing that the mere existence of the Outpost may well have saved them money. The Gazette bid might have been substantially higher without us around.

Some consolation for taxpayers. None for us. This is a tiny piece of revenue for The Gazette; for us, it would have been a very big deal.


Anonymous said...

The County still rotates indigent burials between all funeral homes despite the fact that Jerry Nordquist's Cremation or Funeral Gallery is far cheaper than Smith's, Dahl's and Michelotti's. I cant speak for the new fineral home in Laurel.

Montana Headlines said...

Bummer. The commissioners should have followed Missoula's lead and gone with the low bid.

Question -- do your ads go on the internet for a period of time?

If so, it would seem that the circulation argument would be fallacious, since everyone who is interested would have a period of time when they could see the ads, even if they didn't pick up a copy of the Outpost.

It would still be in hard-copy as required by law in the dead-tree edition.

David said...

Yes, the Montana Newspaper Association has created a website where all of the state's legals can be posted. I raised that point with commissioners.

The Outpost also is available, of course, to people who can't afford the Gazette.

Anonymous said...

That's too bad. Seems like it would be a "no brainer" but that's just me.

Montana Headlines said...

Sounds suspiciously like the commissioners didn't want to worry about getting retaliatory bad press from the Gazette.

Which, if true, would mean that the commissioners were using taxpayer dollars to curry favor with the powerful Gazette.

That's harsh, though -- I'm probably being far too cynical. Can't help but have it cross my mind, though. Especially when a lot of the Gazette's circulation is outside of Yellowstone County, and even out of state.

Taxpayers are paying extra for advertising space that will be distributed far beyond the bounds of where law requires it to be made public for county business.