Are merits of an afternoon newspaper returning?
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The world is rapidly changing. Newspaper production start times are generally much earlier than years ago due to industry, reader, and technology-driven reasons.
On the industry side, early production times accommodate printing operations to produce an assortment of newspaper titles, many of which are now printed at a significant distance from the delivery market. Gone from the morning paper are last night’s sports scores and details on newsworthy events that happened after eight p.m. The snapshot of time for the news in the morning paper has frequently gotten earlier and earlier. With the continued push for consolidation and expanding palpable drive times between markets, we will continue to create an earlier news cycle.
From the readers’ standpoint, mornings aren’t the quiet start they once were. Many commuters travel longer distances to work, and many newspaper readers spend their mornings giving the kids breakfast and getting them off to school before beginning long work days. How many families actually find that they do not have time to read the morning newspaper until late in the day when everything settles down? How many readers only briefly spend time scanning over the headlines or only read a few graphs here and there?
On the technology front, internet news sources and social media sites, including those viewed on mobile devices throughout the day have undermined a significant portion of printed products produced by the newspaper industry. Although newspapers are fighting back with their own digital content, these initiatives have not yet generated revenue needed to displace significant losses in subscriptions and ad dollars that supported the print product.
While the population base of North America still is in demand of our number one currency, local news and information, our current main delivery model of hitting the door step of every home by 5:30 or 6:00am is possibly not meeting their life demands.
What new opportunities exist to change this path?
Consider the merits of an afternoon newspaper.
An afternoon newspaper might sound crazy at first, especially after the industry has moved nearly 100 percent to morning printed products. However, sometime what is old becomes new again. Many afternoon papers were created to inform people of what happened while they were busy at work. Can an afternoon product provide improved subscriber value?
The content of morning newspapers has aged for the above-mentioned assortment of reasons. Many afternoon papers were eliminated in favor of the morning product because the content was stale, resources were stretched, and readers were asking for a more detailed product at their doorsteps before they left for work each morning. Is that still the case today?
Think about the following:
Afternoon news content is fresh – only hours old. People are busy with their workday task and less likely to have all the details on what’s happed in their communities while at work.
Local focus increases. The ability to cover today’s local news is a great strength and is important to leverage. Locally relevant advertising is also a unique asset.
Beat the morning papers with analysis and commentary of last nights’ sporting events that occurred after morning papers went to early production for the morning product. Sporting events eventually reported in the morning product are in many cases delivered a day later.
The advertising messages and sales focus change to a “look what you cannot miss tomorrow” so people can plan for attending a special event.
Enterprise and long-form journalism require a commitment of time from the reader that is more readily available in the early evening by all demographic groups.
Afternoon press time is generally readily available, so an afternoon printed product can hit the streets at the last possible minute.
Does an afternoon product free up sought-after evening press time to print morning newspaper titles for others on a contract basis to add additional contribution?
As we all face staffing challenges both in operations and distribution filling graveyard shifts, would early evening or shifts that ended around midnight rather than five or six in the morning be easier to fill?