UPDATE: Oregonian to cut delivery; no changes at The Columbian

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

Updated: June 20, 2013, 5:20 PM

 

Southwest Washington’s largest daily newspaper, The Columbian, intends to continue daily publication, publisher Scott Campbell said Thursday in reaction to The Oregonian’s announcement that it will reduce home deliveries to four days a week.

“We have no plans at this time to reduce frequency or adopt a plan similar to The Oregonian,” Campbell said. He added that his family-owned newspaper is constantly evaluating readership trends for its online and print news products in the quickly evolving industry. The Columbian has an average daily circulation of 45,816 copies six days a week and 49,778 copies on Sunday, according to its most recent data.

The Oregonian will expand its digital news service while reducing the frequency of residential deliveries of print products, starting Oct. 1. Home deliveries will be made Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Oregonian will be sold at newsstands seven days a week in the Portland area, including Southwest Washington. Home delivery subscribers will be able to read a digital edition of the paper online seven days a week.

The transition also comes with a name change, to Oregonian Media Group. It will come with staff cuts as well, said N. Christian Anderson III, president and publisher of The Oregonian.

“Many of our employees will be offered positions with the Oregonian Media Group,” said Anderson, who will stay on as president of Oregonian Media Group, according to a written statement. Anderson said employees began hearing Thursday about their status with the company.

Subscribers will be told about new rates in August.

The Oregonian is headquartered in Portland and owned by Advance Publications Inc., a New Jersey-based media company owned by the descendants of Samuel Irving Newhouse Sr. The Oregonian’s average daily circulation is 228,909 copies six days a week and 303,495 copies on Sunday, according to data compiled through March 31.

Columbian publisher Campbell acknowledged that many daily newspapers across the country are reducing home deliveries, a model adopted by Advance Publications in 2009 when it switched publication of its daily Ann Arbor News to print only on Thursday and Sunday. In New Orleans, The Times-Picayune, another Advance publication, cut its print edition to three days a week and later supplemented that with a tabloid edition available in stores and newsstands on the days that the full newspaper isn’t printed. Advance’s Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y., this year switched from daily delivery to three days per week.

“It’s a strategy that’s being debated within the newspaper industry,” Campbell said.

“Some people think newspapers can’t be less than seven days a week, but weeklies have proven they can (succeed),” Campbell added. “The newspaper business is inherently scalable. It can be as little as one day a week in print or as much as seven days a week in print.”

The Oregonian’s shift comes as a growing number of people get their news online, turning away from traditional newspapers. The shift has cost newspaper companies print advertising dollars, the lifeblood of the industry, and digital revenue has so far failed to keep pace with the loss of print ads.

Print advertising still brings in the largest share of newspaper revenue for most publications, at 46 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center's report on American Journalism. Released in March, the 10th annual report listed circulation as bringing in the second-highest revenue stream, at 27 percent. Digital advertising brought in 11 percent of newspaper revenue, on average, increasing from 10 percent of revenue in 2011.

The challenge for most newspapers is that digital revenue hasn’t yet reached a level of supporting the business, said Marc Dailey, The Columbian’s circulation and production director.

“When you reduce print, the hope is you don’t lose that revenue,” Dailey said.

He added that reduced home delivery of The Oregonian will likely affect The Columbian and the 200 carriers on independent contract to deliver both The Columbian and The Oregonian seven days a week in Clark County. The Oregonian’s changes will not only affect the contract between it and The Columbian, it will translate to less money for carriers who are paid per newspaper delivery.

In addition to The Oregonian and The Columbian, the independent carriers deliver the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USAToday and Investors Business Daily.

Dailey said newspaper carriers are adults who deliver to urban and rural routes in the early morning hours.

“It’s not youth carriers anymore, but that doesn’t mean kids aren’t helping,” he said, adding that many depend on the income to supplement the main household income.

On the other hand, Dailey said The Columbian could benefit from The Oregonian’s reduced deliveries.

“If there are subscribers over here that subscribe to The Oregonian only and they’re interested in a seven-day publication, they may want The Columbian,” he said. “The caveat is that someone subscribing to The Oregonian may want more Oregon and Portland news.”

Campbell said Columbian coverage would continue to focus on Vancouver and Clark County, along with some Skamania County news.

“The Columbian is dedicated to our local community,” he said. “That will continue to be our focus.”

Among other changes at The Oregonian, Peter Bhatia, vice president and editor of The Oregonian, will be vice president of content for the new company. Barbara Swanson, vice president of sales of The Oregonian, and Hallie Janssen, vice president of marketing at the paper, will have the same roles for the Oregonian Media Group.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Cami Joner is a Columbian business reporter. 360-735-4532, http://twitter.com/camijoner, http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/strictly-business, or cami.joner@columbian.com.

Editor's note: This story has been modified to reflect corrections. Oregonian parent company Advance Publications Inc. is based in New Jersey and The Columbian's independent carriers deliver Investor's Business Daily, information that was incorrect in an earlier version of the story. Correct information on the breakdown of newspaper revenue has been added to the story as well.