A couple weeks ago in an editorial we shared insight into some of the challenges and opportunities the upcoming year may hold for an ever-changing newspaper industry.
The editorial touched on the ever-increasing costs of newsprint, challenges in finding personnel willing to work, our forecast for the economy and the impact of increasing costs to do business within the communities we serve.
We have all felt “the pinch” at the grocery store. Some of us cringe when we open that electric or gas bill. Many have probably considered backyard chicken farming with the more than 40% rise in the cost of eggs during the past year. The increasing costs of just about everything must be considered when running a business. Our editorial mentioned the consideration of frequency reductions in our print products while delivering more local news digitally.
We remain committed to our role as a community watchdog for local government as well as a source of reliable, fact-checked reporting versus other sites that claim to be a source of news while only regurgitating news releases and calling themselves newspapers and news sites.
Although there is room for everyone in the media landscape, revenues continue to shift away from traditional media, such as newspapers, radio and television. Big-box advertisers are spending advertising dollars on social media and streaming services that they used to spend with traditional media. We just aren’t as shiny anymore as an industry in the eyes of ad agencies on Wall Street.
That doesn’t mean we don’t offer tremendous value to local businesses and readers. We understand this. We also understand we need to spend less on producing our products while offering our advertisers and readers more digital offerings to grow their businesses.
These factors are causing waves of change nationwide in community journalism. Some have tried to go strictly digital and failed. Some have shuddered their doors completely and caused news deserts with no local journalism. We have a better plan to deal with the economic downturn.
The Goldsboro News Argus, New Bern Sun Journal, Kinston Free Press, Jacksonville Daily News and Roanoke Rapids Herald are changing our print publication cycles beginning at the end of February and the beginning of March while at the same time beefing up our digital reporting and marketing opportunities. Like many other community newspapers in our area that have already eliminated printed copy distribution days, such as “The Wilson Times,” we understand change is necessary to survive and thrive. We also understand our readers aren’t huge fans of change. Their habits are set in many cases. And they still love to hold a newspaper in their hands.
In order to satisfy both and remain healthy on our bottom lines as a business, some of our newspapers such as Goldsboro, New Bern and Jacksonville are going to a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday weekend edition publication cycle. Roanoke Rapids Herald will publish Tuesdays and Saturdays. Others, like the Kinston Free Press, will be converting to a weekly Saturday publication. The newspapers that aren’t currently delivered via the U.S. Postal Service will move to mail distribution at this same time. We have also changed printers to provide better reproduction and faster distribution.
We know that readership habits have changed. We have newspapers within our group that are thriving while only printing one print edition a week but with more sections and pages versus several smaller editions each week — just like in the good old days.
It is our intent to provide just as much news in three newspapers per week as we have done in a five-day cycle. In communities, such as Kinston, we feel a weekly print publication is more economically feasible. We plan to supplement non-print days with local news on our websites and other digital offerings.
We are reducing subscription rates for most subscribers as well as extending out subscriptions for those with money on account. We are also revamping our special section products and introducing some new special sections in select markets both in print and online.
Our websites continue to be some of the most highly trafficked websites within our communities. We have new marketing options that take advantage of that and can also place your advertising on social media, free streaming channels, in email blasts and other innovative methods of targeting geographically or by consumer behaviors.
We will continue to offer our puzzles, comics, TV guides in some markets, coupons and preprints. Grocery day for inserts will change to Tuesdays in most markets versus Wednesdays.
We understand change is difficult. Folks, we are living in challenging times. One thing that hasn’t changed and will not — our commitment to covering your community the best we can with the resources we have.
It is time to challenge traditional models and adapt our products and services to a changing community journalism landscape. I hope you join us and embrace these changes.
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