AJR  Features
From AJR,   February/March 2012

A Monday Rebirth   

A Maryland newspaper restores an edition it had scrapped three years ago. Thurs., February 1, 2012

By Alexis Gutter
Editorial assistant Alexis Gutter (agutter@ajr.umd.edu) is a student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.     

In recent years, some newspapers, in an effort to save money, have stopped publishing editions seven days a week.

The Frederick News-Post in Maryland is going in the other direction.

In April 2009, the 34,000-circulation News-Post, a family-owned daily, cut its Monday edition as a money-saving measure. This coming Monday, by popular demand, the paper will be back in the Monday game. But with a twist.

Instead of the traditional broadsheet format it uses on other days of the week, the Monday edition of the News-Post will be a tabloid. "It's the format that readers find convenient, quick to read, and we thought it would underscore that we're trying to do something different with Monday," says News-Post Publisher Geordie Wilson. "Convenience and usefulness will make it distinctive, and that will be a big change."

The content will be different as well. The Monday edition will emphasize enterprise stories and sports coverage. There will also be more data points like home sales and local economy figures, and a calendar highlighting events in the week ahead.

Back in 2009, when it was seeking to reduce costs, the paper decided to drop Monday because it was a weak day for both advertising sales and content, says News-Post President Myron W. Randall Jr.

Over the next three years, the paper included some of the material previously published that day in its Sunday and Tuesday editions. It published Monday Advance, an insert in the Sunday edition that included comics, editorials and other features.

But Monday Advance did not satiate readers who would tiptoe to their porches on Monday morning, only to come back empty-handed with no print companion for their coffee.

"Our subscribers were very vocal about letting us know they wanted [Monday] back," Randall says. "They'd tell me, 'Gosh, we sure miss Monday,' or 'I walk up to the paper box and forget it's Monday.' A lot of comments like that."

A variety of initiatives helped make the return to Monday possible. The paper reduced staff, developed online revenue, explored new advertising frontiers and moved to a new building with a more modern, high-speed printing press.

Randall attributes many of these changes to Wilson, who became the paper's publisher in July. Randall had served as both publisher and president after his brother, George E. Randall, died in 2004.

He brought in Wilson, who has a family newspaper background, thinking he would do a better job than Randall himself. "He brought a new passion into the company," Randall says.

Reducing publication schedules has emerged as a money-saving strategy as newspapers struggle to cope with the migration of readers and ads to the Internet as well as the nation's economic downturn. (See Caitlin Johnston's AJR article on the phenomenon.)

The Philadelphia Daily News recently dropped its Saturday edition, and four Michigan dailies announced late last year that they would reduce home delivery to three days a week.

Randy Bennett, senior vice president of business development at the Newspaper Association of America, told Johnston that a number of papers nationwide, mostly in smaller markets, have dropped their Monday editions in the past year or so.

"I don't see this as a sort of general trend over the next 18 months for a whole slew of newspapers, but I think it's a strategy that many newspapers are looking at going forward as digital penetration grows," Bennett said. But in Frederick, Monday is coming back, much to the relief of local newspaper readers.