February 6, 2020 | Lucy Penn
There’s an emerging trend for publishers to replace print on certain days with a digital edition or enhanced web content. In part, this is because publishers are looking to cut costs but without having to compromise on the quality of their content by cutting newsroom staff. On the other hand, it’s a tactic that is being employed to help drive digital habits and encourage print readers to start consuming digital content.
In the US it’s been reported that over 100 daily newspapers have cut the number of print editions they produce each week over the past 15 years.
The University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability predicted that the number of US daily newspapers that will be printing fewer than seven days a week is expected to increase dramatically this year.
[To be classified as a daily paper you have to print three or more editions per week]
Back in 2012 one of the first daily newspapers to cut down on their print editions was the New Orleans Times-Picayune, owned by Advance Publications. They promised readers to increase online news on the days they would stop printing and that they would enhance print editions on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
More recently, McClatchy, who is one of the highest-profile publishers in the US announced that they would be reducing their print editions down to 6 days a week across a selection of their titles as part of their ‘Digital Saturdays’ initiative. Instead of delivering a Saturday print edition they announced that they would only be producing digital stories on a Saturday and would include more content in the way of comics and puzzles in the Friday and Sunday printed editions.
The challenge for publishers is to look for ways they can still offer readers that print-like experience they are familiar with, but across their digital platforms with McClatchy stating “readers would still get the same content, just in a different way”.
Mondays and Saturdays are typically two of the least profitable days of the week for news publishers which is why many newspapers are ceasing print production on these days.
McClatchy was keen to emphasize that this new strategy is in no way an attempt to change their content strategy or to cut jobs within their newsroom, instead it’s a focussed attempt to encourage their existing readers to convert from print subscribers into digital subscribers.
Last February WEHCO stopped home delivery in Camden on all days except Sunday, when they would continue to deliver a print edition. To help their readers transition to digital they actually gave out iPads to a selection of their subscribers to encourage them to view content digitally.
WEHCO media owner and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman Jr, said; “Hussman said that while initially there is some push-back from older residents, who prefer the standard newspaper format, many individuals come to prefer the easy layout of the digital edition of the Democrat-Gazette. He said that a big advantage of a display on the iPad is the ability to increase the size of text. The iPads received from the Democrat-Gazette will also be able to access a digital edition of the Camden News, provided residents have a subscription.”
Another publisher about to adopt a similar approach is Masthead Maine, who will be discontinuing their Monday print editions across Portland Press Herald, Lewiston Sun Journal, Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal. They will continue to create seven editions per week, but one will be available digital-only.
Lisa DeSisto, CEO of Masthead Maine said; “The savings from digital-only Monday enables us to keep our newsrooms at the size that they are and continue to produce the journalism that’s important to our community. We know that we have a lot of work to do to get a portion of our customers comfortable with this, and we’re committed to that smooth transition.”
Monday is Masthead Maine’s weakest day of the week for print advertising and they are going to be doing a big push to help subscribers get signed up for digital access.
Creating ‘digital-only’ editions doesn’t have to be resource-intensive. Some publishers are choosing to continue creating print-ready PDFs and are converting them into a replica ePaper and publishing them online. Other publishers are opting to use their web content and are crafting optimized editions for web and app platforms, cutting out the need to create PDFs.
PageSuite has solutions for both. If publishers are choosing to continue to produce PDF files then our Replica software will enable them to seamlessly convert them into a Replica ePaper for web and mobile.
However, our Edition solution can take content from existing feeds and enable you to push it into optimized HTML templates which can replicate the look and feel of the printed newspaper. Once templates have been crafted or chosen, this process can be automated.
Some publishers are choosing to use Edition to create Evening Editions or one-off special editions. Recently the Dallas Morning News launched a new Evening Edition which sits alongside their daily Replica edition. Their Evening Edition is powered by our Edition solution and is built using existing content which enables them to maximize the value of it and package into a ‘finishable’ digital-only edition.