By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Waltham daily will be cut to twice weekly

The Daily News Tribune of Waltham will cut back from five days a week to two just before Labor Day and publish under a more locally focused name: the Waltham News Tribune. The move was announced earlier today on the paper’s website.

Starting Aug. 31, the paper will come out on Tuesdays and Fridays, although publisher Greg Reibman was quoted as saying the goal is to prove daily coverage online and through a new mobile app.

“We will be all Waltham, all the time,” Reibman said, explaining that the paper will no longer cover Newton.

The News Tribune is published by Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media, which owns about 100 papers in Eastern Massachusetts, most of them weeklies. In an internal e-mail obtained by Media Nation, Rick Daniels, president and CEO of GateHouse’s New England group, compared the move to a similar one made last October, when the Daily Transcript of Dedham was cut back from five days a week to one and renamed the Dedham Transcript.

“We’re confident this approach, coupled with our website, will make the Waltham News Tribune more valuable and useful to Waltham residents and our advertisers,” Daniels said.

GateHouse, a national chain, is under considerable financial strain, as are virtually all newspaper companies (although things may be looking up a bit). The twice-weekly move probably isn’t one that company officials wanted to make. But from a business point of view, it makes sense to cut production costs and shift advertising into just two editions rather than five if it can be done without alienating readers.

If the company follows through on its online and mobile promises, then this will look smart.

The full text of Daniels’ e-mail follows:

As you all know, we are continuously evaluating our publishing strategies in each of our communities to make sure we are the most efficient and effective local news source in the market.

Last October, for example, we changed The Daily News Transcript from a five-day daily newspaper to a weekly newspaper, Dedham Transcript, while putting a new focus on a redesigned Norwood Transcript as well. That decision turned out to be a big win, especially in Dedham where, with special thanks to the efforts of editor Andrea Salisbury and our circulation eam, we’ve steadily grown our subscription base as well as single copy sales since the launch.

Later this summer, we will be making a similar move in Waltham, only with one significant variation. On Friday, Aug. 27 we will deliver the last issue of The Daily News Tribune and, instead, focus on producing a high-quality twice-weekly paper, to be called the Waltham News Tribune.

The newly designed Waltham News Tribune will arrive at doorsteps and on newsstands every Tuesday and Friday. In contrast to the Daily News Tribune, which currently includes coverage of Newton and Watertown, along with non-local content such as Associated Press stories, comics and other syndicated features, the new twice-weekly paper will focus exclusively on Waltham.

We’re confident this approach, coupled with our website, will make the Waltham News Tribune more valuable and useful to Waltham residents and our advertisers. We chose Tuesday and Friday as our two publishing days based on the news and advertising needs of our readers and customers. We anticipate the Tuesday edition will include city council coverage, weekend sports and breaking news, while the Friday edition is likely to include additional areas of coverage such as upcoming weekend entertainment and features. In addition, the Tuesday edition will carry our “WickedLocalJobs” section and the Friday edition will carry our “WickedLocalWheels” section.

By working closely with the production and circulation groups, we’ve been able to develop a plan that will allow us to handle pre-printed inserts in both the Tuesday and Friday editions while getting the newspaper to newsstands by lunch time each day. This will help in driving single copy sales. Please know that we are not trimming our editorial or sports staff as part of this change. Andy Merritt, the Tribune’s current night editor, will be the new paper’s editor. Scott Souza will remain the sports editor and will also continue in his role as GateHouse’s beat reporter covering the Boston Celtics. Editorial oversight for Waltham will be transferred to the Metro Unit, with Greg Reibman as publisher, and Kat Powers as managing editor.

In the next few weeks we will contact all Daily News Tribune newsdealers of this change and will inform subscribers that their account balance will be transferred in full to a new twice-weekly subscription. Our call center will be fully prepared to help resolve all concerns to our customer’s satisfaction. If you receive any home delivery questions before that, please refer them our customer service department at 1-888-MYPAPER. Local news continues to be the mission of GateHouse Media New England, and we’ll continue to evaluate and improve all facets of our business to strengthen our position as the premier provider of local news and information, both in print and online in Eastern Massachusetts.

At one point in time, some might have wondered whether our local mission might have been too limited to enable us to be highly relevant to our readers, advertisers and the communities we serve as well as be consequential and successful as a business enterprise. In the last several months, several competitors have emerged that are entirely focused on the hyper-local news, information and advertising markets – not because these markets are somehow “small” or “insignificant”, but because they are hugely consequential in being able to support a viable publishing company – whether print, the digital media or (as we do) both. These competitors actually affirm that we ARE in the best part of the media world. They also have to realize that this company has been at this business for a long time, and enjoys a market position that will be extraordinarily difficult to crack.

Here are four compelling numbers that help to tell the GateHouse New England story, circa 2010: 1.7 million, 3 million, well over $100 million and 400. These numbers represent, respectively: The size of our Massachusetts print audience, the number of unique visitors per month to our websites, the size of our revenue base and the number of full-time professional journalists we employ. The levels of attainment these numbers signify places us at or near the top of the rankings of Massachusetts media companies. The economy has been a huge challenge for all businesses, and most especially media businesses, but we not only “survived” the Great Recession, but have seen our advertising revenues actually start to GROW again (albeit slowly with the continued economic cloudiness) in five out of the first six months of 2010. Thank you all very much for what you have done and continue to do to allow us to do what all companies MUST do in order to be successful: serve an identifiable and attractive niche with quality products and services, grow our revenues and customer base, become ever more efficient and generate sufficient cash flow. We know that staying on top of a fast-evolving industry is incredibly challenging and requires business model changes that can be a bit jarring. We have not averred from these changes, and this latest one with the Waltham News Tribune is one more example that will allow us to be both more focused on providing hyper-local news to the Waltham community AND be more efficient as well.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. This would seem like a good move to me. Focusing completely on the local and getting rid of the AP copy should make it work. The older folks who want to read the print edition will get two jammed issues a week; the hipsters online will have all kinds of stuff too. There are a ton of stories to tell in that city so focusing more locally should be a win-win.
    As an aside, back in 2002, not long after becoming the Winchester editor, I suggested to Pat Purcell and Greg Rush during a sit-down lunch meeting that the Waltham paper be expanded to include Belmont, Lexington, Watertown, and other towns, as a regional daily, going right after the Globe in those market. I made the case that if the current staffers in those towns could each submit one local story a day, it would make it worth the money for the other towns, since many of those folks were already buying a daily. If you could get 500 to 1,000 more subs per town, it would be huge. I also suggested they create another regional daily that would include Winchester, Reading, Stoneham, Medford, and other towns, again, going after the Globe.
    They seemed intrigued by the idea but, you know, hiring more people and all … These days, it doesn’t seem like such a good idea. But back then, it might have flown.
    In many ways, most of our weekly staffers are working as if we are at a daily – since there is newly created content posted online most every day.
    That said, as the Belmont editor, I’ve always had a good working relationship with the Waltham folks – since we’re border towns – and hope to continue that relationship.

  2. Pat Daukantas

    Hmm … The Belmont readers I remember from pre-Web days would take offense if we at the Trapelo Road office told them they had to drive to Waltham to place their classified ads. I was repeatedly told that I could never understand Belmont because I was born in one of the 350 other Massachusetts cities and towns. And yes, I remember the planning meetings for the merger of the Citizen and the Herald when our community representatives asked us to make the word “BELMONT” huge in the masthead and “Citizen-Herald” comparatively tiny.

  3. And now, Belmont is tiny on the masthead, BTW …

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