The Plain Dealer announced on Thursday that it will reduce home delivery of the newspaper to three days a week this summer as it transitions to an online focus.
The three-day home delivery subscriptions, including a Sunday edition, will include access to what is called an “e-edition” seven days a week, according to an announcement on the newspaper’s website. Print versions of the Cleveland paper still will be available for purchase throughout Northeast Ohio.
The change is necessary as people increasingly are using digital devices to get their information, said Terry Egger, Plain Dealer president, publisher and chief executive. Egger will become chairman of the Plain Dealer Publishing Co. before retiring at the end of the year.
The paper’s owner, Advance Publishing, has made a similar reduction to three-day-a-week printing at its papers in Alabama, New Orleans, Syracuse and Harrisburg, Pa., in favor of digital platforms to deliver news.
“We have to adapt,” Egger said. “Our main mission is to serve our community with news and information.”
The Plain Dealer’s staff launched a community campaign last fall to fight the expected cut to the print edition.
Harlan Spector, chairman of the newspaper’s unit of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, said he has concerns about the home delivery reduction announced on Thursday.
About 181,000 of the Plain Dealer’s 293,139 average daily circulation Monday through Friday are home delivery customers, according to the newspaper.
“We’re pleased that they’re maintaining a seven-day-a-week paper,” he said. “Maybe it shows that they were listening to the community. But, obviously, we still have grave concern about the cuts in home delivery, which is going to have a huge impact on our readers, particularly our most loyal readers — our older citizens. We’ve heard from so many already. They’re really worried about this.”
As many as half of Cleveland homes aren’t wired for Internet access, “so that’s also a concern,” Spector added.
“We’re still going to be campaigning to maintain quality journalism in this community,” he said. “This is not the end of the struggle.”
Decisions about staffing as a result of the changes haven’t been finalized, Egger said on Thursday. The newspaper reached a deal with the Guild last year that will reduce the number of journalists on staff by about 50 this summer when the changes take place.
As part of the widely anticipated announcement, the Plain Dealer is launching a new digitally focused media company called Northeast Ohio Media Group this summer.
The new company, to be led by current Plain Dealer Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Andrea Hogben, will oversee ad sales and marketing for the Plain Dealer and the operation of Cleveland.com and Sun News, according to the online announcement.
Egger said the newspaper is making money and opting to shift to a digital focus from “a position of strength.”
“We still believe in print,” Egger said. “But clearly, you need to be on the cutting edge digitally.”
The Akron Beacon Journal isn’t planning to follow the Plain Dealer’s business strategy when it comes to home delivery.
“The Beacon Journal has no plans to reduce our home delivery days,” publisher Andrea Mathewson said.
It’s unclear, however, what the Plain Dealer’s action might mean to the Beacon Journal.
“We provide Akron and Summit County with a robust local news report from the area’s largest newsroom,” Mathewson said. “We are always looking at options to enhance our coverage.”
The Plain Dealer is meeting with advertisers and others to finalize which two days in addition to Sunday it will continue home delivery, Egger said.
The Cleveland newspaper hasn’t decided whether subscription rates will change, he said. The Plain Dealer also is determining how the print edition will look after the change, although Egger said he anticipates the newspaper to be larger on the three home-delivery days.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.