Earlier this week the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced some significant changes in its operations.
The PD will still print a newspaper seven days a week and make it available at newsstands and other outlets, but home delivery will be limited to three days a week, one of which will be Sunday. A new, digitally focused company will be formed, and the content for the print edition will be used on the digital platform. If you subscribe for the three-day delivery deal, you will also receive access to a seven-day digital news website. In addition, reports say that about a third of the newspaper’s reporters, as well as members of management, will be laid off.
We’ll have to see how this works, but my guess is that a three-day home delivery schedule won’t last long. People who want to read a daily newspaper in paper form will want to do so every day. For them, it’s part of the daily routine, not something they choose to do only on, say, Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday. If their newspaper won’t deliver every day, my guess is that they won’t drive to the nearest convenience store to pick up a copy — they’ll either try to find a newspaper that does deliver every day or they will do without every day.
The layoff of a big chunk of the editorial staff also tells you something about electronic news sources. They just aren’t as robust in the news gathering, and crucial editing and fact-checking, functions as a printed daily newspaper will be. People who read news digitally don’t look at the entire content and say — as a daily newspaper subscriber will — that the size of the newspaper has really shrunk. The digital subscriber will go to the website for a few stories, but not the deep dive a daily reader often takes. The inevitable result is less content, and less coverage of the smaller stories that often are the most important.
The newspaper business is changing. Those who want to see what the future will bring would do well to keep their eye on the PD‘s big experiment.