Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Who Ever Said a 'Daily' Has to Appear Every Day?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Who Ever Said a 'Daily' Has to Appear Every Day?

Article excerpt

Back in the early 1990s when Hazel Reinhardt of the Media Management Center first suggested some small-market dailies might be better off if they skipped publishing a day or two each week, her musings seemed as close to heresy as you could get in the newspaper industry. After all, newspapers had spent the better part of four decades convincing themselves that a newspaper had to be in the home every single day.

But now, even execs at some big papers are turning the idea over in their heads.

There's overwhelming evidence, says INMA's Earl Wilkinson, of less demand for a heavy print product during the week. And the money saved from newsprint and labor could finance revenue-enhancing measures like better marketing promotion and research. Newspapers waste money producing "an oversized product on certain days of the week where there is little or no demand for it," says Wilkinson, yet they spend just 1% of revenues on marketing and research.

Even Wall Street is beginning to warm to the idea that "daily" doesn't have to mean publishing seven days a week. Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Ginocchio, for instance, predicts that the core newspaper product of the future will be smaller, and publish perhaps five days a week -- skipping Monday and Tuesday.

Kannon Consulting founder and President Barbara Cohen sees a great future for papers on the weekend, but isn't so sure the Monday and/or Tuesday edition will survive. "Just like how TV has day-part strategies, newspapers need to have day strategies," she says. "Monday or Tuesday should be much smaller than it is, maybe only sports and breaking news or maybe make Monday and Tuesday a combined paper."

Whatever newspapers do, Cohen adds, it should be dramatic.

One paper that took the plunge was the Chicago Defender, which in June 2005 eliminated the Tuesday edition from what had been a five-day publishing schedule. Tuesday was a near-impossible sell for its advertising staff, says Executive Editor Roland S. Martin. Not so coincidentally, six months later the long-struggling black daily posted its first operating profit in two decades. Martin says there are no plans to revive the edition.

The Columbia Missourian is one of those papers constantly thinking of dropping a day, acknowledges Executive Editor Tom Warhover: "We've asked ourselves that question every month for probably the last 10 months. And our answer every month has been, 'Not yet.' But that doesn't mean that'll be our answer next month." Like other papers, the Missourian is loathe to abandon revenues from print when online revenue, while growing fast, is still a fraction of what the core newspaper makes.

"Plus, a big question becomes, what day would you drop?" asks Warhover. "The answer needs to have a better logic than, 'Well, let's just pick one.'"

Too risky to take a day off?

The signs that seven-day publishing is losing favor are clear. Nearly all of the many commuter papers, youth tabs, and Spanish-language dailies that newspapers have launched in recent years are five-day papers. USA Today, which turns 25 next year, has always published five issues a week, though its weekend edition stays on the racks through Sunday.

And as the Media Management Center's Reinhardt points out, "In the grand scheme of things, [seven-day papers] are a relatively recent phenomenon. …

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