On Wednesday afternoon a source sent me a memo from four top Gannett executives announcing that Saturday print editions will be eliminated at daily papers in 136 of the chain’s markets across the country.
I don’t know why they didn’t just say “136 dailies,” but maybe there’s a nuance that I’m missing. It sounds like the edict will pertain to pretty much all of Gannett’s dailies except for a few of the larger ones (I hear that The Providence Journal and the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester will be exempted) and those that already have just one weekend edition (like The Patriot Ledger of Quincy).
Among the local papers that will be affected, Adam Gaffin notes at Universal Hub, are the MetroWest Daily News of Framingham and the Milford Daily News. Also affected, according to announcements I found, are The Standard-Times of New Bedford, The Herald News of Fall River and the Cape Cod Times. But obviously there are many, many more.
Amusingly enough, the memo refers to this as “a new Saturday experience.”
Now, I’m a frequent critic of Gannett, but this doesn’t strike me as a terrible move — even though the price of a subscription is not being cut. The dailies already offer an e-edition that looks like print, and that will continue on Saturdays. The move cuts costs on a day when advertising is minimal. It seems likely that, eventually, all dailies, not just Gannett’s, will offer one big print edition on the weekends and go digital-only the rest of the week. This is an incremental step in that direction.
The problem, needless to say, is that Gannett has a record of cutting for the sole purpose of cutting — laying off journalists and shutting down smaller weeklies in order to bolster its bottom line and pay down its debt. The salaries it pays its reporters are a disgrace. Take, for instance, this tweet from Bethany Freudenthal, a veteran reporter for The Newport Daily News in Rhode Island, whose weekly take-home pay is just under $400 a week.
Given all that, it’s hard to credit Gannett’s elimination of Saturday print as a forward-looking move — even though it may turn out to be exactly that.
The memo, by the way, is a model of corporate-speak. Here it is in full.
As we kick off the new year energized with a keen focus on our North Stars, we are working collaboratively to enable our growth and further accelerate our digital strategy by evolving the print delivery experience.
To make bold progress toward our goal of 10 million digital subscribers requires that we embrace the multi-platform, connected experiences our audiences and customers expect. Our customer-obsessed approach will ensure we remain a vital part of the communities we serve across the country.
As more of our readers engage with our content online, we are introducing a new Saturday experience in 136 of our markets which transitions from delivering the Saturday print edition to providing exclusive access to the full Saturday e-Edition. Committing to our digital future ensures our resources are laser-focused on delivering unlimited access to the premium news, sports, events, and information our loyal subscribers value most. A number of markets will not be included in this transition based on specific market data. Details will be included by local managers in the coming weeks. In addition, we plan to introduce different delivery models in select markets to stimulate further learning and insights as we address the rapidly evolving digital landscape to provide our subscribers with the best experience.
We recognize the importance of Saturday for our advertising clients, and our advertising sales and service teams will be working closely with our customers to provide them with innovative, impactful digital and print options for their Saturday investment. These solutions include high impact and targeted digital display campaigns on our local websites, opportunities within our e-Editions, our industry-leading LOCALiQ digital marketing solutions, as well as alternative print advertising programs.
Our mission is unwavering: to empower communities to thrive by delivering impactful, trusted news coverage and best-in-class marketing solutions for our customers.
Thank you for being part of this team as we work together to serve our customers, execute our digital strategy, and prioritize community-focused journalism in the year (and years) ahead.
— Mayur, Maribel, Kevin & Bernie
Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer
Maribel Perez Wadsworth, President/News at Gannett & Publisher/USA TODAY
Kevin Gentzel, Chief Revenue Officer
Bernie Szachara, President of U.S. Publishing