From the Publisher: Disruption in the newspaper industry need not disrupt readers

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This is a period of profound disruption in the newspaper industry. Nationwide, newspapers face dramatically declining print advertising revenues, and most are taking steps to shed legacy costs.

These initiatives are even more urgent in today’s economic climate. Shortages of raw materials are fueling an already alarmingly high rate of inflation, and consequently, costs for publishers and our readers are soaring and continue to break even the most carefully constructed business and household budgets.

This newspaper, like others across the country, is confronting these challenges head-on, and next Friday, on July 1, the first of two significant changes will occur, when we will start printing the paper with a smaller page size. The new page will be about 12 inches deep, as compared to the current depth of about 15 inches. This change will help save on the exorbitant cost of paper.


The second step will be to restructure our publishing schedule from seven days to five days a week. This downscaling of print frequency will mean papers will be published and delivered Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Starting July 2, our Saturday issue will be discontinued, and on July 4, the Monday issue will be stopped.

Many of you have sent us encouraging and complimentary messages about these changes; others have asked vital questions about content and features; many others have made truly helpful suggestions, while still others have honestly expressed disappointment about the new publishing schedule.

We are committed to providing answers and explanations to all your concerns and will try to do so as straightforwardly as possible.

• Going to a five-day publishing schedule without offering subscription refunds amounts to a price increase and a reduction in service. Your approach is just all about the money.

Certainly, we understand this reaction. We are admittedly taking this step to save money but not out of greed or an avaricious desire to line pockets of stockholders or owners. The Delaware State News is published by Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA, which, in turn, is entirely owned by a nonprofit trust. INI is a regular for-profit, tax-paying corporation, but owing to our unique ownership, any after-tax profits are reinvested in the company.

As for offering subscription refunds, we’d like gently to remind readers, that even at five days per week, our current subscription rates are far less expensive than those charged by similar newspapers elsewhere in the country.

Our newspaper, which has been a bargain for many years, remains a bargain, even without Monday and Saturday. The value, after all, is not in the frequency of publication but rather in our local journalism. As so many of you have pointed out, our focus on local coverage is what gives the paper its ultimate value.

Our newsroom is larger now than it has been in a decade, and our aim is to hire more journalists, as we can afford them, so that we can better carry out our mission of journalistic service, commitment to the ideals of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and support of our community’s deliberation of public issues.

• I still don’t agree with your explanations about reducing frequency. I have paid in advance for my subscription. What are my options?

To discuss your options, we encourage you to call our customer service team at 302-741-8298. We want to do everything we can to ensure your satisfaction, and we have empowered our customer service team to work with you to achieve a mutually agreeable solution.

Please also remember that our unique, nonpartisan reporting is now more widely available than ever before. Our coverage is available in print, online and on all mobile platforms — 24/7/365. And, if you are a current seven-day subscriber, you will receive both a free eEdition of the State News for as long as your subscription is current, as well as a year’s worth of unlimited access to BayToBayNews.com, our acclaimed regional website.

• Dropping Saturdays and Mondays will deprive me of national and international news.

We will continue to offer national and international news as a service, as we have done in the past. These news stories will continue to come from The Associated Press. But neither national nor international news are our real focus. The heart of our reporting is local news — stories that affect you, your family and neighbors, told impartially without bias. We believe every story has at least two sides and gaining two days a week will give us time to dig even deeper into the stories that matter the most. And, again, it is our intention to increase the amount of local news available to you, whether it is in print, online or communicated by our mobile apps.

• You say you will continue to use The Associated Press, but the stories from AP are biased.

We don’t disagree; we frequently discover implicit bias in the language used by the AP’s reporters. We will, however, stick with AP and attempt to make the best of the situation. The Associated Press is the only affordable news syndicate left. We rely on AP not just for national and international news but also for national and regional sports coverage, including all the major league sports, most colleges and NASCAR.

Downscaling our print schedule, however, will change our use of AP in two important aspects. First, as local stories grow in number, we will replace some AP content with our own work. Second, with more time between issues, we will be able to edit more of the AP stories we publish, so that they strictly meet our standards.

• Why doesn’t the State News publish box scores for Major League Baseball games?

As a rabid baseball fan, this question struck home with me, and it is a complaint I have heard before from other baseball fans. When I have asked the question in the past, the answer has always been box scores are expensive and time-consuming to place on the page, and that they consume lots of space.

Prompted by this most recent question, I wondered if it would be possible to provide box scores at least for the Phillies, Orioles and Nationals, and sure enough, improvement in our digital publishing software does, in fact, make obtaining and placing the box scores much easier than ever before. So we plan to experiment with publishing them, by insetting the appropriate box score into any story we run that is devoted to the three regional teams.

• So how do you plan to handle the horse-racing report? Race fans often live and die by the racehorse entries, and many subscribe to the paper for this information.

Racehorse fans need not worry. Right now, the racehorse entries run on the sports pages on the days of the races. To make certain fans don’t miss this important information, we will begin publishing the any Monday race entries on Sundays. An easy fix.

• We received an email from a reader who kindly praised the State News for publishing a variety of local opinions, commentaries and letters to the editor.

It goes without saying we were delighted by this reader’s email, which provides an appropriate opportunity to announce that our new design will contain two pages of opinion Tuesday through Friday and four pages on Sunday. We have also placed all our opinion content on BayToBayNews.com outside our paywall.

These decisions were driven by you. As we listened to your comments and read your emails, we realized anew that you regard this newspaper as much more than just stories by our reporters or those we publish from The Associated Press.
The newspaper and our website play an indispensable role in thoughtfully shaping community opinion and how we as citizens respond to the questions of the day. Adding more opinion content and making what is online accessible to all is an important step in fulfilling our mission.

• I am a newspaper subscriber, and I have tried unsuccessfully to register my account on BayToBayNews.com, so that I can take advantage of my unlimited access. I can’t figure it out. Can you help?

If anyone encounters a problem with either signing up for an eEdition or registering an account on BayToBayNews.com, please call our customer service team at 302-741-8298.

We will soon have two short instructional videos that will lead subscribers through step-by-step instructions on how to sign up for their free eEdition or to register their account on BayToBayNews.com.

• I love your newspaper, but your home delivery stinks out loud. The delivery is unreliable and often late.

We agree! In an early step to shed “legacy” costs, we opted to outsource our home delivery two years ago. The quality, sadly, has not been up to our expectations. We are now in the process of renegotiating our contract with our delivery partner, and an important addition to the contract will be a schedule for penalizing the contractor financially for missed deliveries. We believe this step will provide a heretofore absent incentive to improve quality and timeliness of our home delivery.
We appreciate every subscriber’s patience and ask that you bear with us. We will continue to insist on quality, on-time delivery of every paper.

We are fighting for you. You have our word!

If you have other questions, then please keep them coming. Call the DSN Hotline at 302-608-0062 to leave a comment or question. Or you can email us at dsnhotline@iniusa.org.

Please know we remain genuinely grateful for every subscriber and reader, whether in print or online, and we thank each of you for your extraordinary loyalty, for sticking with and supporting the newspaper and its digital media, as they have evolved and will continue to evolve long into the future.

Darel La Prade is group publisher for INI Delmarva. Besides the Delaware State News and BayToBayNews.com, the group includes three weekly newspapers in Maryland, a fourth weekly in Delaware and three monthly newspapers that cover Smyrna, Milford and Georgetown-Millsboro.