Downtown Planet ends 27-year run
The publisher says readership was up but not advertising
The Monday, July 24 edition of the Downtown Planet, a free weekly newspaper founded in 1979, will be its last, due to insufficient advertising revenue.
Its final issue hits the street as early as today.
"The decision was particularly difficult because we're getting great readership response," said Floyd Takeuchi, president and chief operating officer of the paper's parent company, TransOceanic Media.
Reader response was measured by returns, or how many copies were left in distribution boxes, into which 20,000 copies were placed each week.
"If you've got a 10 percent return rate, you're doing exceedingly well," according to industry standards for free weeklies, Takeuchi said. "We've been below 10 percent for the last year and a half, even as we expanded distribution into Waikiki, Kaimuki and Manoa," he added.
"We just quite frankly couldn't convert the readership response into a level of advertising that worked ... so it's a great disappointment."
Without divulging figures, Takeuchi said the company had invested heavily in the paper's editorial quality, changing it from black and white to color. It also expanded the concept from a niche, downtown-centric paper to a community paper.
While freelancers such as food and restaurant writer Joan Namkoong will be displaced, no regular employees will lose their jobs, Takeuchi said.
Publisher Kalowena Komeiji has been offered continued employment with the company, and the core editorial staff will turn its attention toward a new project, the nature of which Takeuchi declined to disclose.
TransOceanic is owned by Duane Kurisu, a minority investor in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Kurisu bought the Downtown Planet in 2004 and had it printed at the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek presses in Kaneohe.
"I was quite surprised and saddened that they decided to close," said Dennis Francis, president and publisher of the Star-Bulletin. "I can certainly understand the advertising pressures."
"It was a good little product. I read it. I picked it up every week," Francis said.
Downtown Planet co-founder Susie Thieman, now a Maui resident, had the same reaction.
"Oh gosh, it was just starting to look good, with a lot of new ads," she said.