Word continues to filter in of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s pullback from statewide circulation of a print daily edition of the newspaper — the latest from the Hot Springs area, just 50 or so miles down the road from Little Rock. Subscribers there were told home delivery of a print paper would end in May.
The newspaper offers to provide tablet computers to subscribers to read a digital edition of the newspaper. The cost is $34 a month after an introductory period, or around $400 a year. Experience says there are ways to dicker on subscription prices, just as with Comcast. WiFi or other Internt access is necessary to receive this form of the newspaper, however.
I asked Lynn Hamilton, president and general manager of the Democrat-Gazette about the extent to which the newspaper had switched to digital subscriptions (with some exceptions for Sunday delivery of a print edition, a valuable vehicle for advertising inserts, whose purchasers pay based on the volume of delivery). I also asked if the newspaper had contemplated an all-digital future.
We’re still trying to find the best way forward. Probably half the counties more than 50 miles away from Little Rock have been enlisted in some sort of digital program, excluding the 12 counties of northwest Arkansas. Sunday only print is the latest test we’ve tried. As we draw closer to central Arkansas, the savings become less significant. We’re looking at each county one at a time. No definite plans.
The Democrat-Gazette’s dilemma is shared by every newspaper in America. And I’ll say as I often do that it has maintained a higher investment in staff and pages of information than most newspapers in the country. With rare exceptions, however, such investments haven’t reversed advertising or circulation losses brought by the Internet and changing reading habits.
If it weren’t for paid obits and the old-timers like me who read them, there are many daily newspapers in America that would be almost bereft of both local news AND subscribers. It’s hard to produce a daily newspaper without reporters. Example: The Newspaper Guild for the Cleveland Plain Dealer has seen its membership drop from 340 to 30 to cover a major league city.
Stop the presses suddenly has several more levels of meaning.