LOOKING FOR EFFICIENCY: Could NWA study mean end of local inserts to regional D-G such as Northwest Arkansas Times?

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  • LOOKING FOR EFFICIENCY: Could NWA study mean end of local inserts to regional D-G such as Northwest Arkansas Times?

OK, so I’ve wanted to work for a newspaper since I was in the third grade, so indulge me.

More on the hearbreaking news that the New Orleans Times-Picayune will no longer be a daily newspaper. It will be printed three days a week, but shift more attention to digital delivery. The owner of that newspaper is doing the same thing in Huntsville, Mobile and Birmingham. Four substantial Southern cities without a daily newspaper. Unbelievable. No Saturday paper to peruse high school football scores.

Here’s an interesting report on what happened when this same plan was put in place in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Last night, the open line mentioned and readers engaged at some length on another piece of newspaper news closer to home. It was a report in The City Wire, an energetic on-line news “paper” for Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas, that the Hussman-Stephens Northwest Arkansas newspaper combine was not producing the hoped-for profits. A New York consultant has been hired to search for “efficiency” and new revenue.

As I remarked last night, the problem seems self-evident. In preserving the three Stephens dailies as inserts to the regional Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the combine has duplicated printing and staff costs, apparently without achieving any meaningful revenue boost from selling people into one or the other or both. A unified regional daily newspaper seems the obvious solution, at some further significant cost to people, the major newspaper expense. That’s just idle speculation, of course, but it has seemed the obvious outcome from the start of this venture. If increased revenue ideas are out there, this consultant will become the most-sought-after commodity in American newspapering, which has been on a cumulative downward trend in revenue for years.

It’s a national dilemma. Has advertising changed fundamentally? Will readers pay sufficient money for digital subscriptions to support comprehensive reporting staffs? Are free TV websites — with most headlines, sports scores and weather — enough for most people? These are questions that may not be answered in my lifetime, though, as fast as things move and given my advancing age (almost 62), they might. The survival of the daily “paper”? That question HAS been answered, just not the second part — when is the final day?