Subscribers to the Plain Dealer woke up Wednesday to the paper’s official word on its new version of summer reading.  In a front-page Dear Readers column by  Robert Perona, the senior vice president of circulation, we were told  of the historic event scheduled for August 5 when the paper will shrink to a three-days-a-week home delivery with all sorts of “enhancement” to your “week end experience”

Like most newspaper announcements of their in-house plans to serve readers, the boilerplate column left us with many upbeat promises to soften the blow of days without a paper on our door step.  The Wednesday-Friday-Sundaycircuit will be offered as a “premium print experience”   with a Saturday “bonus edition”. At the same time, we were assured that everything will be better than ever before.

Although the deep thinkers of Advance Publications, the PD’s owner (Read: Newhouse), spent long months figuring out how to combat the onrush of news-by-Net technology, I’m not sure how any of this will work, or can work. After all, you may have seen that a sister paper, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, finally yielded to the outrage of its readers and competition from a new paper in its neighborhood  to give up its three-days-a-week home delivery and return  to its old self.

In that case, the New York Times quoted an ad executive  as saying, ” We are excited about this opportunity to extend our daily reach.”  Opportunity! It’s the sort of excitement that embellished the PD’s announcement, which had already become old news except for a precise date.

The Beacon Journal in recent years always cloaked change (say, switching to morning publication) with bubbly assurances that the paper would be better than ever with hyper-attention to local news.    (You be the judge.)

Tracking the Times-Picayune’s  upheavals, NY Times media columnist David Carr referred to the paper’s out-and-in gyrations as a “jaw-dropping blunder to watch.  Advance misjudged the marketplace – the whole city and state went ballistic when the changes were announced – and failed to execute a modern digital strategy.  Now it is in full retreat with new competition.”

You have to wonder why the strategists didn’t factor in a worst-case scenario down in the Bayou country while some of them were doubtless thinking about their achievement bonuses..

I confess to my own suspicion when bad things are made to sound good.  I  once was  challenged by a mid-range  editor after I complained that news room brass never failed to tell the reader that they were “thrilled” that a new department editor had joined the staff.   With some of these folks,  I simply couldn’t see them being thrilled about anything.

Still, I suspect that the PD front office must be at least temporarily thrilled by making journalistic history in northern Ohio.

  • Why doesn’t The Dispatch do this? Ruining it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Oh, yeah. It’s because, in publishing, The Dispatch owns everything in and around Columbus. And I notice they’re incredibly excited about turning their broadsheet into a tabloid, without ever using the word “tabloid” to describe the new size. Maybe they’re on their way out after all.

  • anastasjoy

    Actually, the Times-Picayune did NOT “return to its old self.” It is promising to start printing a tabloid on its dark days that will NOT be available to subscribers except online, only on the street (this in a city with one of the highest percentages of people without the Internet at home!)) And no one knows exactly what form this TP Jr. paper will take. The TP has also already made a weird flailing response to the Baton Rouge Advocate moving into NOLA and getting set to launch a full-scale bureau there by starting a weekly paper in Baton Rouge which hasn’t gotten very good reviews. Apparently, it’s pretty lightweight. I haven’t seen it personally.

  • dmoore2222

    This is pure conjecture. Columbus is changing rapidly from white bread to rye. The population that once supported the Dispatch is aging and thinning out while a younger, more diverse one just isn’t buying the old white man’s view of the world extolled by this paper. The new world order dictated by social media doesn’t include the standard political endorsements and the white male cultural biases of the Dispatches of the world (I’m a white male babybommer, by the way). AND, young voters DO NOT think President Obama lacks leadership ability as a Dispatch editorial recently claimed. They voted him in twice now because they like his leadership style AND because he looks more like them then either McCain or Romney. What the Dispatch fails to realize is that it’s future no longer lays with suburban and rural Ohio. It’s with this new population. But that train has already left the station so it’s probably too late. Aside from the impact that net technology is having on print media, I believe the lack of mutltiple newspapers in major cities has done more damge. It has made survivor publications lazy and myopic.

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