Newspapers without the paper

In a world of a 24-hour news cycle, If you’re not publishing daily, are you still a newspaper?

The Red Wing Republican Eagle announced today that it will publish only two days a week starting in September.

“We will deliver more local news to subscribers — but twice a week in larger newspapers instead of in five smaller papers. This change will allow our staff to concentrate only on the local market,” publisher Steve Messick said on the Web site today.

It’s another attempt to save money but right off the bat, revenue from subscriptions will drop by about $50 per subscriber.

It’s not a new concept, of course. The Capital Times of Madison switched to a twice-a-week print schedule more than a year ago, also promising to put more energy into its Web site. The Detroit Free Press publishes only three times a week.

More than 100 newspapers nationwide have made the cut, according to Editor & Publisher magazine. So far, nobody’s died because of it, and most of the problems the move causes seem generally to involve the comics and Friday night high school football scores.

  • kennedy

    This is similar to the adjustments travel agencies had to make when internet travel sites became available. The industry contracted and survivors had to provide value in new ways. I see the same happening for local news. While I don’t know exactly what formula will lead to survival, local news and in depth reporting are two things not widely available elsewhere.

  • The monthly print run of the Strib is about 12 million copies, with about 1.5 million visits to their site. The Pioneer Press prints about 6 million and has about 400 thousand monthly website visits.

    These figures suggest that people still favor reading the news with ink stained hands by about a 10 to 1 margin (or so). Any savings found by saving the trees have to be weighed against a likely decline in circulation.

    It’s probably not fair to say that if the Strib went online-only that some of those who read it in print would not follow, boosting their visit count substantially. But I think it’s safe to say that they’d lose readers, and thus advertiser income.

    These are the trade-offs that drive it. It may make sense for very small papers that have extreme printing costs to go virtual, but the math probably works in favor of The Way Things Are for larger outlets.

  • Bob Collins

    There’s a ritual involved with a DAILY newspaper. I’m still instinctively waiting to be greeted by the dog we put down a month ago. I’ll bet if the Twin Cities papers dropped the paper part, I’d still instinctively walk out of the house to go get it every morning at 5:30 anyway.

  • bob

    You know the death knell is near when you hear that a newspaper is switching from publishing daily to only a couple of times a week. It’s an understandable and commendable — but futile — attempt to stay alive.

    I grew up reading newspapers, and I’ll be sad when they’re gone, but gone is where they’re going. They are increasingly less relevant, and we need to deal with that reality and move on.

    In the end, I think size will matter little when it comes to the question of whether there will still be paper newspapers by 2015 or 2020. With very few exceptions, they’ll be history.