On Thursday, Advance Publications, Inc. announced that four of its daily newspapers would cut print editions from seven days per week to three.

The Times-Picayune in New Orleans was the first to hit the chopping block. Alabama’s three largest papers, The Huntsville Times, The Birmingham News and the Press-Register in Mobile weren’t far behind.

The past 10 years haven’t been kind to the newspaper business, particularly from a public relations standpoint. Every fool with a microphone has been beating his or her chest decrying the death of newspapers.

Don’t buy it. It’s not true.

Advance Publications bought into the rhetoric. They’re basically engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming those papers were dying, their actions on Thursday will do nothing but expedite the process. Further, I’d be shocked if they’re printing a paper at all within three years.

I’ve never seen financial statements from any of the aforementioned properties. That said, I really don’t need to. It’s apparent the group is struggling financially. It’s apparent those problems have been going on for some time. What’s not apparent is how the powers that be think cutting back to three publications weekly will help remedy those struggles. Honestly, it appears they’re not really sure.

Today’s headline in the Press-Register read, “Exciting changes for our readers” Honest question – how many subscribers to the Press-Register do you think were “excited” about the fact that they no longer have a daily newspaper?

Every newspaper in the country is battling a struggling economy. That’s no secret. We’re no different than any other for-profit business in that regard. However, there is no fundamental flaw with our business model – regardless of what the talking heads would have you believe.

The Daily Sentinel has been in business for over 100 years. We’ve remained for so long because of our commitment to local content. We pride ourselves on giving people information they can’t get anywhere else. The three largest papers in Alabama used to be committed to that as well.  

Somewhere along the way larger metro newspapers lost focus on their commitment to hyper-local content. Doing so was a terrible mistake – one that may prove to be fatal.

It’s a mistake that we’ve never made and, as long as I’m employed here, will never make.

We’re still committed to providing our readers with local, compelling content they can’t get anywhere else. We’ve not entertained cutting publication days, significant layoffs or anything of the like.

The news about Alabama’s three largest newspapers, while troubling, has absolutely nothing to do with the health or future of this newspaper.

The bottom line is this – we’re not going anywhere.

(6) comments

TWERPY1

I think that's incorrect.

With the advances in technology that's been going on, I predict that in the next 20 years, this paper will be gone along with The Huntsville Times.

Free papers like The Clarion will probably still continue but nobody will pay to subscribe to a paper news source when they can get the news in a more timely manner with their Kindles, Nooks, iphones, ipads, etc....

TWERPY1

One more thing.

The Daily Sentinel isn't a daily paper. Maybe it should be called The Almost Daily Sentinel.....

Garry Morgan

It was obvious the H-Times lost focus on local news when they closed the Jackson County Bureau office in Scottsboro a couple years ago.

It is obvious Advance Internet lost their focus years ago in their archaic, sophomoric editorial policies on local forums. Intentionally removing content which not only reported local events but engaged in local discussion. In their place they allowed slanderous attacks and racist comments supportive of extremist political groups including terrorists.

The bottom line, Advance Publications has an organizational and editorial management problem. It is their media outlet to prosper or destroy it.

Concerning the DS, we may not always agree concerning some issues but I appreciate y'alls reporting on events, particularly the political variety. Many thanks for your hard work.

Twerpy, thanks for your input and for visiting the site. 

Regarding your first comment, you're right, at least to some degree. Changing technology has forced us to adapt the way we do business. This website and the comment function we're using is a testament to that new technology. Nothing in my column suggested otherwise. I was simply saying The Daily Sentinel is still 100% committed to publishing our newspaper in printed format. I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future.

That said, let's assume your prediction is correct and newspapers, in printed form, will be gone in 20 years, and people will get content exclusively on the devices you mentioned. I think your assumption is the content on those platforms will continue to be provided at no charge. I'm not so sure that will be the case. As a matter of fact, I'm almost certain that won't be the case. 

Secondly, the Alabama Press Association (the trade association for newspapers in Alabama) determines the classification of daily and non-daily newspapers in our state. Any newspaper publishing more than 3x per week is considered a daily newspaper. We don't make the rules. We just play by them. 

TWERPY1

Oh, I was in no way implying that there wouldn't be a subscription fee associated with the electronic devices I listed. As a matter of fact, in order to view the NY Times, one has to pay for the subscription.

At any rate, The Daily Sentinel used to put out a daily paper, correct? Now the Saturday/Sunday editions are merged together. So, to say "we've not entertained cutting publication days" is false because the paper already has.

I enjoy the paper, by the way--long time on-and-off subscriber.

The Daily Sentinel has never published more than 5x per week. Years ago, there was a Sunday edition, but no Saturday edition. Having a combined weekend edition that publishes on Saturday allows us to deliver Friday night football coverage on Saturday morning as opposed to 48 hours later. That decision was made because we felt that's what our readers preferred. More importantly, that's the type of content our readers can't get anywhere else. 

By the way, thanks for being an "on-and-off subscriber." How can I get you to become a full-time "on subscriber?" We've got some specials running right now.

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