The Patriot-News will soon join other newspapers owned by its parent company in cutting its daily product to three days a week.
The announcement was made Tuesday in conjunction with a similar announcement at The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., which is also owned by Newhouse Newspapers, a division of Advance Publications, according to the Associated Press. Both papers will drop to three days a week, with The Patriot-News scheduled to make the change in January.
Papers under that ownerships have already announced switches to three-times-a-week publications, with The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and the three largest newspapers in Alabama. A number of Advance Publications newspapers in Michigan have also dropped from being dailies.
“This is a bold move on behalf of Advance Publications,” Sentinel Publisher Mark Heintzelman said. “In our industry, we continue to innovate every day. In regards to The Sentinel, we remain committed to providing local news, information and resources for advertisers in the delivery method of their choosing.”
The Associated Press noted that Advance’s changes were also accompanied by hundreds of layoffs.
Patriot-News President and Publisher John Kirkpatrick, however, said that the Harrisburg newspaper will be working on keeping staffing levels near the level it is at now, especially when it comes to the editorial department.
“I don’t have the numbers,” Kirkpatrick said, noting that he addressed The Patriot-News staff Tuesday morning. “It’s almost likely there will be fewer overall employees than there is here now. I have said that the number of reporters and creators of content will at least be the same, if not more. We’re not going to go down on the reporter, photographer and content creator side. We’ll make the difficult decisions in other areas.”
Part of the reason why Kirkpatrick said he wants to make sure the content creator positions are at the same level has to do with the reason he feels the shift is a good idea — the increase of attention to their digital platform.
It’s a move that veteran newspaper analyst John Morton isn’t quite sure will pan out for Advance Publications’ newspapers.
Morton is the owner of Morton Research Inc. in Maryland and recently wrote a column about newspapers in the digital age for the American Journalism Review. Watching what has happened in the last year, Morton said he’s seen what kind of effect the switch has had in Michigan and why it’s a concern in other areas.
“With Detroit, it went to delivery only three days a week — it was still printed but only available on racks in stores,” he said. “Circulation dropped substantially.”
Morton explained that newspaper companies are taking different routes in addressing the changing digital environment.
“Warren Buffett is buying up papers and insisting that the key to financial success (in newspapers) was giving readers more rather than less,” he said. “The Newhouses take a different tack. They say they’ll beef up their websites, but they have some of the worst websites out there. They’ll also cut their staff dramatically. There will be fewer feet on the ground, especially with reporters, and the less information you have.
“One of the strengths newspapers have over all other forms of journalism – including radio and television – is a substantial reporting staff and substantial amount of information they gather,” he added. “That’ll be tough when you weaken that strength.”
Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns a 6 percent stake of Lee Enterprises, parent company of The Sentinel.
Kirkpatrick insisted that The Patriot-News’ remaining three papers – which will be on Sunday and two as-of-yet-unidentified days – will still have the same type of coverage.
“We want to provide three Sunday-like newspapers and be there like we were for the Sandusky case, for Penn State and for the flood last year,” he said.
In addition to the announcement on the circulation change, Kirkpatrick also announced that The Patriot-News and Pennlive will merge to create the PA Media Group, which would focus on keeping online audiences more up to date. Kirkpatrick, who will be the president of the newly created group, said he didn’t think it would be much of a leap for current Patriot readers considering the numbers he’s seen in online.
“I think they already have (embraced the digital product),” he said. “We’ve been looking at for years the way people get their news and the way advertisers get word out. In the past year, our unique visitors to the website grew 80 percent. We’ve also seen how advertisers worked in the paper and the declining circulation on certain days.”
Though Morton believed the reasoning for the cuts has more to do with cutting out the less money-making days of the week for newspapers, he noted that no one has the exact answer as to how newspapers will continue through the digital age.
“Nobody said this transition from print to digital would be easy,” he said. “It’s going to be a bumpy journey. The Newhouses have taken one approach. Other newspapers are betting on putting in pay walls up. It’s a very difficult transition period. I’m not prescient. I don’t how it’s going to work out.”
Posted earlier on Cumberlink:
The Patriot-News reported today that it will merge with Pennlive.com to form a single organization – PA Media Group – and will drop its print schedule from a daily to three days a week beginning January 2013.
The newspaper reported that the decision was made to meet changing demands of readers and advertisers, and it will increase its online presence to 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The newspaper noted that Sunday will be one of the three days in which it publishes, but the other two days have yet to be determined.
John Kirkpatrick, who is currently the newspaper’s publisher and president, will be the president of PA Media Group.
Advance Central Services Pennsylvania, which is owned by Patriot-News parent company Advance Publications, will print and deliver the newspaper and provide support for the new organization.