APME/APPM 2009

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2:45 Breakout session: Losing a day

By Andrew DeWitt

Cutting days

Lori Kilchermann, John Tucker and Steve Wade turn to discuss cutting days of newspaper content. Photo by Lauren Foreman

In this breakout session are the following people talking about how to adapt to losing a day of newspaper delivery.

Lori Kilchermann, John Tucker and Steve Wade are here in the room to share their experiences.

John Tucker says that generally what they tried to tell people in the Lake of the Ozarks was that we were going to deliver more news and more importantly more local news. Had some difficultly in changing over from older

Steve Wade went through his transition 13 months ago. After the KC Star pulled back away from his publication’s coverage area, he was able to use that an example for what was going to come. His smaller paper feared the community outrage after a failed attempt back in 1992. They were concerned about cutting the Monday edition and gave two weeks notice.  Also told readers that they were not going to get less news and even more.

Lori said that they chose to cut Monday based on advertising day. Also, there was no competition would move into the Monday day. Monday just worked well for her competition. Another challenge her paper faced was deciding where to move a special feature section, specifically health, away from Monday into a Tuesday.

Steve said that the numbers decided to also cut Monday. He said that readers missed starting off the work week with a newspaper and that the routine was disrupted.

John said that he thought that killing the Monday paper hurt the work flow of going. Looking back, he would have killed the Saturday paper even though that would have meant killing the high school football Saturday newspapers.

All three editors said they struggled with readers being upset about the Comics missing for one day. Lori said that her paper has doubled up on games and comics on Tuesday to make readers happy.

Steve Wade said that they took a customer friendly approach dealing with subscriptions. They extended each subscription a day longer for each Monday they missed. Looking back, he said that approach probably cost them some money and could have dealt with unhappy customers on an individual basis.

Lori said her publisher took a hard-stance and said they weren’t going to issue refunds for canceling the Monday paper. She said a couple of subscribers decided to cancel but they loved the paper so much that they came back anyways.

Steve said they made a mistake in that the Sunday reporter relaxed and they didn’t manage those expectations correctly.

Lori said they have a photographer who publishes things on the Web on Sundays so that if readers check the Web site Monday morning there is something fresh there.

John said that his paper was bluntly honest with readers how much his paper was struggling. He also made a promise to readers that they would get more stories and his paper has delivered on that promise.

Steve and Lori said they tightened their Tuesday paper to have more bulk so neither publication added more pages.

Steve said the most positive thing has been that the cut has served as a rallying point for the community to support the newspaper. People in Steve’s coverage area are afraid of losing their paper after losing delivery of the KC Star so they have supported the paper better than ever.

John suggested a little PR by putting in-house ads into the newspaper that explain how the newspaper is changing and how it is going to make things better.

Lori and Steve both said that they were both considering cutting more days if that’s what it comes to.

John says you really start to be a different product completely when you cut more than just one day. The paper becomes more feature based and less about being timely.

Steve believes that the day of the Internet being the main money maker is coming sooner than later.

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Filed under: Economic issues, Management principles, ,

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