Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman, in a full-page letter to subscribers today, sends a signal that the end is near for the print edition of the newspaper, except on Sunday.
Hussman’s letter recounts the now familiar tale of woe for American newspapers, beset by declining advertising and circulation. This was covered in an interview with him in the D-G last week. His newspaper is losing money. It’s decided that converting readers to cheaper digital delivery (at the same subscription price) is a path to survival.
The letter notes that the newspaper has converted readers to digital delivery in most of the 75 counties in the state by providing free iPads and individual instruction in their use. It encourages all to try. In most counties, only digital delivery is available. An Arkansas Blog reader said last night that notice of digital-only had arrived this week in Conway, a major city with a large Democrat-Gazette circulation only 30 miles from the Little Rock printing plant.
I read the letter to readers as an indication that in the near future all of Arkansas, including Little Rock, will be served by a digital newspaper six days a week, with a Sunday print edition carrying the money-producing advertising circulars (themselves dwindling, Hussman has said). Hussman says digital readers like iPad delivery better once they learn about it. He hopes for a 70 percent conversion rate from print to digital subscriber numbers to maintain news staffing at its current level (higher than many larger newspapers, it’s fair to note.)
No specific timetable or plans are mentioned. But the closing paragraphs seem more than a subtle hint.
My question: When the newspaper is available only in digital form, will it continue to be presented on the computer tablet as a facsimile of a print edition that doesn’t exist? Seems strange, but I actually hope so. I still don’t think a better presentation has been devised than an organized compendium of the top news stories at a certain point in time. Rooting through websites for the different parts isn’t as efficient. But I’m an old fogey.
A word to other old-timers: Using a grease pencil to fill out the crossword, Jumble and Cryptoquote on your iPad is not recommended.