Hearst CT de-emphasizes print while expanding its newsroom and digital subs

The New Haven Register’s printing plant is long gone. And now its owner, Hearst, will be printing it out of state as the chain doubles down on digital subscriptions. Photo (cc) 2009 by Dan Kennedy.

A newspaper battle is brewing in Connecticut — but print is becoming an afterthought.

Hearst Connecticut recently announced that it would move its printing operations to Albany, New York, meaning that deadlines for titles such as the New Haven Register and the Connecticut Post of Bridgeport will be earlier than ever. Twenty-eight jobs will be eliminated, reports Greg Bordonaro of the Hartford Business Journal.

At the same time, Hearst has been growing in Connecticut. The chain is adding positions to its combined newsroom of about 160 full-timers. According to confidential sources I’ve been in touch with with, digital subscriptions have risen from about 21,000 to 39,000 over the past 16 months.

With Connecticut’s statewide daily, the Hartford Courant, being strangled by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, the privately owned Hearst is attempting to fill the void. Last summer, Hearst unveiled a new statewide website, CTInsider, that has its own staff and also draws on content from Hearst CT’s eight dailies and 13 weeklies.

It’s an approach that emphasizes statewide and regional coverage over community watchdog reporting, and it’s similar to what Advance is doing in New Jersey, where papers such as The Star-Ledger of Newark, The Times of Trenton and the South Jersey Times have been united under the NJ.com banner. Nevertheless, the emphasis on growth and real journalism at Hearst CT is heartening at a time when hedge-fund cutbacks are dominant.