Post-Standard publisher explains why it's cutting print editions

Aug 29, 2012

The digital world has finally caught up with Syracuse's daily newspaper.  The Post-Standard has announced it is cutting back the number of print editions it puts out every week.

The days of waking up and  finding a newspaper on your doorstep seven days a week will be gone in central New York starting January 1, 2012. That's when a new business structure takes hold of the Syracuse Post-Standard, and it's website syracuse.com. A new information company called the Syracuse Media Group will begin bringing central New Yorkers this version of their daily news.  

Post Standard Publisher Stephen Rogers says the economic model that has sustained newspapers for years just doesn't work anymore, leading to a shift away from printed editions, towards a beefed up internet presence.

"If we do nothing, we are out of business. We have to do something, and this is what we are doing," said Rogers in an interview with WRVO News.

Rogers emphasizes there will still be opportunities to find newsprint smudges on your fingers seven days a week - but only in the Syracuse area.

"We'll have complete newspapers Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.  In Ondonaga County we will have smaller papers available on newsstands those other four days," Rogers said. "We have not abandoned print seven days a week, we'll still have a print edition."

This move doesn't surprise many media watchers.  Like Syracuse University Newhouse School Dean Lorraine Branham, who saw the writing on the wall when other papers owned by New Jersey-based media company Advance Publications slashed printed editions.

"When the news broke earlier this year about changes taking place at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the papers in Alabama, I figured it was just a matter of time before something similar happened here," Branham said.

And the reason for all this is simple -- the internet.  First, it's the way people get their news now, says Rogers.

"Your children and your grandchildren don't read print, they read on their smart phones, on their iPads, on their laptops, and we're aware of that. And if we're going to stay alive, we have to reach people that way."

Then there's the revenue component.  Advertisers have been slipping away from newspapers for years, says Branham.

"Real estate has slipped away, the classifieds have slipped away. We're fortunate to have some automotive, but [for] automotive, I mean you go to cars.com," said Branham. "You have all these online options that people also use and that advertisers also take advantage of."

Rogers says he expects as time goes on, there will be a sharp growth in advertising revenue online and a gradual transfer of revenue from print to online.  

The implications of this shift from paper to digital go beyond newsprint. The newly created Syracuse Media Group will move out of the iconic white Post-Standard Building on Clinton square in Syracuse.  Rogers says they are looking for a downtown location for that staff.   Left in the Clinton Square facility, will be support staff called Advanced Central Services.  And, Rogers suggests some jobs will be lost.

"The combined staff of the Syracuse Media Group and the Advanced Central Services group will be smaller than it is today.  But there will be at least as many reporters on the street, if not more on January 1 than there are today," said Rogers.

Branham says a robust reporting staff is necessary for this to work.

"You're gonna need reporters, the people to gather this information, to deliver this content in new ways," Branham said. "Part of this going online is not just doing all the stuff you used to do and do it online, but to find new ways of reaching people.  You're gonna need the video to do the social media, to use the new tools to deliver information to people."

One other concern is the digital divide. What happens to those who don't have the technology or access to broadband?

"Not everybody can afford to have broadband," said Branham. "Dial-up doesn't work for the robust kind of online news and information that's out there today.  I used to worry more about the digital divide before cell phones, especially in poorer communities, but now it seems like everyone has cell phones," said Bradham.

And Rogers admits that issue played into their ultimate decisions.

"That divide becomes less of an issue as time goes on, because the digital world is now in kindergartens so everybody is crossing that divide. That's why we think it's important to keep an edition in print."