The iPads are coming to Northwest Arkansas.
The Democrat-Gazette reports this morning that the paper is now set to begin implementing its shift to digital in Northwest Arkansas.
Support the Arkansas Blog with a subscription
We can't resist without our readers!
The D-G has already enacted its plan for the rest of the state — the paper only comes out in print on Sundays and otherwise comes out in a digital version that replicates the traditional print layout. If subscribers want an iPad to read the digital edition on, the D-G will provide one.
The shift has not yet been implemented for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the version of the paper that comes out in Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Newton, Sebastian, Scott and Washington counties.
Publisher Walter Hussman, who had previously been mum on the reason that the shift to digital had been delayed for Northwest Arkansas, revealed earlier this week that the issue is that the Northwest Arkansas edition of the paper has a much lower subscription rate after recent battles with competitor newspapers. In the wake of the regional newspaper war, many subscribers are now paying $19 per month. In order for the iPad plan to be profitable, rates need to be at least $34 per month. Hussman’s plan for digital conversion in the area is to raise rates by $1 a month until they reach $34.
Hussman has used Harrison as a test market for digital conversion in Northwest Arkansas. Around 500 have made the switch, an 80 percent conversion rate. The conversion to digital in Harrison will be complete this week, Hussman said. The next test run will be in the Fort Smith area.
Statewide, for the 63 counties outside Northwest Arkansas, the conversion rate is 78 percent, with 36,500 subscribers making the switch. Most of them have chosen to receive iPads as part of the deal, distributed at a total cost of $11 million.
From Lindsey Millar’s recent Arkansas Times cover story on the paper’s digital shift, here are some recent subscriber numbers to put those figures in context:
In 2011, the Alliance for Audited Media reported that the Democrat-Gazette had an average of 142,000 daily print subscribers. Two years later, after the price increases had gone into effect, that number had dropped to 129,000. For the first quarter of 2018, when the digital replica conversion had just started, daily print subscribers had dropped to 86,000.