The newsprint industry has been declining over the years. About 45% of all U.S. newspaper jobs have disappeared in the last decade, according to the Pew Research Center. Papers across the nation have been forced to close their newsrooms and printing presses are becoming less common.
The same is true for the Seattle Times. Its printing-press property, just west of Woodinville High School, is on the market.
The Times announced plans to sell its 23.5-acre property in Bothell on July 31. The company will shift to printing the paper at its Rotary Offset Press in Kent, beginning at some point in the first half of 2020.
Seattle Times president Alan Fisco said the decision is the result of two ongoing trends: the decline in the print-media business and the boom in local real-estate values. He said the sale will fund news operations.
“There’s going to be a lot of people impacted and a lot of lives turned upside down,” Fisco said.
Fisco also acknowledged the unknown number of workers at the company who will likely be out of a job with the closure of the property. He said the facility typically employs about 150 people, and some will be able to transfer to the Kent location.
Rotary Offset Press prints local editions of the New York Times and commercial printing jobs. Fisco said the facility can handle the addition of the Seattle Times and other papers currently printed in Bothell.
The Times opened the Bothell production facility on 120th Avenue NE in 1992 and printed both the Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Now, the press prints the Times, local copies of USA Today and weekly papers for China Daily.
The Bothell location has four printing presses. In past years, the plant printed 500,000 papers on Sundays, with the capability of doing at least 750,000 per day. It now prints about 170,000 Seattle Times print papers per weekday and 230,000 on Sundays, plus others for the local USA Today and China Daily editions.
Fisco declined to say how much the company expects from the sale, but the county has assessed the four parcels at $38 million. The Times purchased the land for the press facility for $8.2 million in 1989, according to a posting from the newsroom in August. The property includes the press and three parking lots.
Fisco said the Times also has some debt to pay down on the Bothell plant, as well as pension-debt obligations to fund at the company. He refused to provide financial details.
“When this process is complete and the property closes, we will have additional cash resources to invest in our future and our evolving business model,” Fisco said. “Ownership will not get a penny from these transactions.”
In recent years, the Times pivoted to a business model based on subscriptions, which provides for extra funding from over 40,000 digital readers.
The Bothell printing press is not the first property to be sold by the Times in recent years.
The Blethen family, which has owned the Times for 122 years, sold off four properties in South Lake Union from 2011 to 2013. The combined $88 million in proceeds was used to reinvest in the newsroom.