In what looks to be the final chapter in a long and messy case, SF Weekly has announced that they’ve successfully reached a settlement in with the SF Bay Guardian. But if the tone of their announcement is any indication, their war of words is far from over.
It was the end of November when the CA State Supreme Court refused to review lower-court rulings ordering SF Weekly and its parent company, Village Voice Media, to pay $21 million in damages to its locally owned and operated competition, the SF Bay Guardian. This after a case focusing on, the SFBG successfully argued, predatory pricing practices by VVM.
As Guardian Editor Tim Redmond blogged in November, the Appeals court noted that “(w)e have before us the case of an ongoing, comprehensive, below-cost pricing scheme,” behavior barred by California’s Unfair Practices Act, which was, Redmond says, designed to protect small business from big chains.
After months of settlement negotiations, VVM’s Andy VanDeVoorde today announced (via the Weekly’s “Snitch” blog, as well as in an identical press release on VVM’s site) that as of today the two “parties have resolved and settled their differences on mutually acceptable terms” which “brings the legal action to an end. Details are not being disclosed.”
VanDeVoorde then takes the opportunity to announce that “the Weekly has continued to widen its lead over the Guardian despite the six-year legal distraction,” comparing their internal metrics (Google Analytics) for the SF Weekly site with numbers from an external auditing site (Media Audit) for the Guardian’s traffic.
If you don’t care about inside web traffic baseball, skip this graf! As anyone who follows web traffic knows, this is crap thinking — web traffic measurement tools differ greatly. For example, I could totally lie and say that the Appeal’s traffic, via web traffic tracker Sitemeter beats SFist’s, if for SFist’s numbers, I use web traffic tracker Compete.com. Instead, if you compare using the same tracker for both, a more accurate picture emerges, see SFist’s sitemeter numbers or look at both sites using Compete to see that popular, established site SFist.com has far heftier traffic than the Appeal does. (For now, at least, mua hahaha.)
The point is this: no analytics tracker is perfect, but comparing numbers using two different services to prove your point is kind of bullshit, and just seems like you’re trying to game the numbers. Especially when the analytics tool you use to gauge your competition’s numbers is based on telephone surveys, not on a counter that tracks visits to a site, as Google Analytics does. Hardly the act of an organization interested in a graceful settlement!
The Guardian’s Tim Redmond, however, wouldn’t lower himself to my bullshit-calling level, instead just telling me that, “everyone at the Guardian’s pleased, and we’ll be meeting in the coming weeks to decide our future direction.” That is, how they will spend whatever unnamed amount of money they’re getting. Redmond says he will publish a blog post on the topic later today, I’ll add a link to this post when he does. (Update: here it is!)
SF Weekly also appears hopeful for the future, as in his statement, VanDeVoorde says the Weekly “will continue business as usual.” Which, in at least the Weekly’s case, appears to be to bait the Guardian whenever possible, even as VVM grits their teeth and writes that secret settlement check.