Chattanooga Times Moving to Digital Format, Buying Subscribers iPads

A local newspaper in Tennessee is following its sister paper in going fully digital by ending its daily print edition in favour of digital editions while retaining the Sunday print edition.

A couple of key points from the article for other local newspapers to keep in mind:

  • Journalism matters - this paper is part of a smaller chain which is mindful of its community responsibility and continues to invest in journalism. A local paper must be local and have the resources to provide the best coverage in numerous beats.
  • Frills do not matter - this paper plans to use digital to show more photos and more data. Too much of the online content offered by newspapers is just filler, thrown on the web because it is easy to put anything online. Quality matters in print, quality matters online.
  • Relationships matter - this paper includes a phone number for readers to call "to learn more", it will provide sessions for people to learn how to use the new digital edition.
  • The Weekend Edition is Where the Money is - weekend newspapers that are rich with features and depth can make money, a lot of money. Advertisers still look to reach mass audiences and influence decisions. The public wishes to be informed in a nice concise informative package not restricted by algorithms. The weekend print edition is the best delivery device to do this. Look at the Sunday New York Times, and increasing efforts by both The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star to make their weekend editions more relevant to this reality.
  • Local weekday papers are too thin already and a day late - weekday print editions attempt to summarize the news of yesterday. The problem facing them is that readers already read the news of yesterday online or on television. Daily coverage is challenging to put into long form context, this takes a day or two. The contextualization is best done in the weekend edition. More problematic for newspaper is the thin weekday editions beg the question "why I am paying for these few pages of local news and a bunch of other stuff I already get elsewhere?"

Legacy newspaper newsrooms retain a culture of longer form journalism and have dedicated long-time staff who do the time consuming work of diving into documents, filing information requests, and have the legal and editing resources to create the stories which matter most.

This is their competitive advantage. People will pay for this. Consumers will pay the same price for a great weekend edition with digital content during the week as they do for a daily newspaper.

A great weekend paper will draw new paying subscribers. I buy the Sunday Edition of the New York Times and consider the daily content I read there a "free bonus".