Perhaps because the Berkeley Daily Planet long ago made the decision that it was far more concerned with Palestine than with Albany, it has only a tiny fraction of the advertising of other local newspapers. This has resulted in a massive personal financial loss to the O’Malley’s, which they state as being more than $40,000 per month.
To staunch the flow of red ink, O’Malley announced plans to ask readers to pay a donation of $2.00 per copy at her new off-street distribution points. O’Malley reasoned that if only 5,000 people paid $2.00 per week she could break even. In theory, we agreed with her tactic. Since this paper serves the radical left and pro-Palestinian communities (largely the same thing), let them support it, rather than advertisers who show little interest anyway. On the surface, it all makes sense.
We visited one of her first named distribution points, Nabolom’s Bakery, on a late Friday afternoon August 21, 2009 to see for ourselves how O’Malley’s new business plan was faring. As you can see from the photo, almost all the papers are gone, but there is but one lonely dollar sitting in the transparent donation box. Oh, oh. Nabolom's is a well known far left gathering spot in Becky O’Malley’s very own affluent neighborhood, and this bakery was among her first announced inside distribution spots. If she can’t sell her paper there, it is hard to imagine where she can sell it.
We’re not the type to say we told you so, but we did mention it. Our thesis was that there may indeed be 5000 hard left supporters of Palestine among Berkeley’s aging radicals, but we doubted aloud whether there would be 5000 who would pony up the $2.00 a week. No doubt, the O’Malley’s decided to use transparent love offering boxes to start some sort of virtuous cycle. We would not be surprised if they soon replace these boxes with ones that are opaque in order to hide their embarrassment.
This dismal showing vindicates us on several other points as well. The print run of the Berkeley Daily Planet appears to be way down. We have visited a variety of boxes on Saturday and found all of them empty. Nora Handel, the Daily Planet’s ad salesperson, tells would be advertises that the print run is 19,000. We believe that Nora is an honest person, competent, and well meaning, but she only knows what the O’Malley’s tell her, since there is no independent print run audit. In any event, you can readily see from the photo that, although the newspaper had been in distribution for less than 48 hours, almost all copies are gone by Friday afternoon. Surely, anyone arriving at the bakery on Saturday morning would find the rack empty. The cry would go up, “those filthy Zionists stole our papers.” The O’Malley’s know differently, but they say nothing.
The second point of vindication is that we have maintained that very few people in Berkeley actually read the whole Berkeley Daily Planet. Typically, they pick it up for the Calendar section or the funnies and toss the rest unread. We hypothesize that the one dollar bill came from an honest reader who merely thought that he or she should only pay for that part of the paper they actually look at. That’s fair.