Newspaper Print and Distribution Models Evolve

Jul 26, 2013

Like many media outlets, the newspaper industry has been evolving over the last five years. With the consumption of news and advertising shifting to a digital focus, newspapers have responded by incorporating an integrated platform to accommodate the varying preferences of their readers. Although a majority of daily newspapers continue to publish printed products six to seven days per week, some have adopted a new strategy that focuses on digital delivery and limits the production and delivery of a printed product to three or four days a week.

When the Detroit Free Press made the move to three-day a week home delivery in 2009, the impact of a market hit particularly hard by the recession had forced management to make a decision.  Loyal advertisers affected by the down economy invested cautiously and trends indicated that those dollars were being placed primarily on three of seven days. The decision to reduce the frequency of a printed product while increasing focus on digital delivery would mark a drastic change from the traditional newspaper model.  The Free Press would cut expenses by eliminating four days of the home delivery print product, increase emphasis on digital, and develop the opt-in Sunday select to address retail preprints. Four years later, the Detroit Free Press continues to see steady increases in web traffic and the select program has doubled in three years. On Sunday, the Free Press now reaches 28% more households with retail inserts than they did in 2009.

As business models vary from one market to another, some publishers have stated they will never move away from a seven-day a week printed product, while some others have slowly transitioned from seven to three-day home delivery or print schedules over the past few years. It has become a strategy that is interesting to watch develop.

These news media companies are still experimenting with publication schedules and are keeping a close eye on circulation and advertiser reactions in their markets. Some will tweak their plans along the way, such as the New Orleans Times Picayune, who earlier this month introduced a new tabloid publication called TP Street that will publish on the four days that the Times Picayune does not. Plans are for this publication to be available only at single copy sales locations. 

Newspapers that have adjusted their print schedule include:

  • Detroit Free Press (MI) – 3-day home delivery, still prints 7 days
  • Grand Rapids Press (MI) – 3-day home delivery, still prints 7 days
  • Kalamazoo Gazette ( MI)  - 3-day home delivery, still prints 7 days
  • Muskegon Chronicle (MI) – 3-day home delivery, still prints 7 days
  • Jackson Citizen-Patriot (MI) – 3-day home delivery, still prints 7 days
  • Saginaw News  (MI) – Prints 4 days per week
  • Bay City Times (MI) – Prints 4 days per week
  • Flint Journal (MI) – Prints 4 days per week
  • New Orleans Times Picayune (LA) – Prints 3 days per week – launched daily tabloid (TP Street) on June 22 to print the other 4 days of the week
  • Harrisburg Patriot (PA) – Prints 3 days per week
  • Birmingham News (AL) – Prints 3 days per week
  • Huntsville Item (AL) – Prints 3 days per week
  • Mobile Press Register (AL) – Prints 3 days per week
  • Portland Oregonian (OR) – 4-day home delivery, still prints 7 days
  • Syracuse Post Standard (NY) – 3-day home delivery – still prints 7 days
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH) – 3-day home delivery – still prints 7 days
  • Oneida Daily Dispatch (NY) – Prints 3 days per week (added Sunday product)
  • Hanover Evening Sun (PA) – Plans to print 3 days per week starting 1/1/14.

It is important to remember that this list represents just a small fraction of the nearly 1,400 daily newspapers across the United States who are still printing and distributing a newspaper every day of the week and have no plans to change their print or distribution frequency in the near future. 

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