If you’re a weekly subscriber to the Arizona Daily Sun, don’t go out looking for your paper Monday morning. It won’t be there. The Sun’s publisher decided to stop printing a Monday edition.
If reading the Arizona Daily Sun is part of your daily routine, on Monday morning, you’re going to have to begin a new set of habits.
Earlier this month the paper’s management informed readers it would no longer be printing a Monday paper.
If you want to see the Sun’s local news on Monday, you’ll have to read it on the web.
News and features that might have appeared on Monday will show up in the Sunday and Tuesday print editions.
The Sun’s publisher wouldn’t agree to a taped interview for this story.
But in a column printed since the announcement, he wrote that the cutback was all about maintaining a strong business model.
In other words, surviving in an increasingly digital age.
A subsequent column stressed the paper will be still be publishing news 7 days a week, just not always on paper.
“There’s no silver bullet, there’s no one answer. I think if there was we would have figured it out," laughs Caroline Little. She’s the President of the Newspaper Association of America.
Little says newspapers across the country are experimenting with different ways to cut costs. And she says the Sun’s strategy is one of the better options.
“If you’re going to cut back on costs, in my view it’s better not to try to do it on the core of the content, which at least is available on line," she said.
It’s no secret newspapers in general are struggling.
The Alliance for Audited Media keeps track of newspaper circulations, and it reports that the Daily Sun saw a decline in average circulation of about 10% over the last year and a half.
Its parent company, Lee Enterprises emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, but on Wall Street, it’s trading at less than half the price per share than in April a year ago.
Martin Sommerness, a professor of journalism at Northern Arizona University, says the Sun has to find a way to engage its audience and be relevant while remaining economically viable. And he adds that newspapers across the country are cutting back on their print versions.
“The Times-Picayune in New Orleans has gone to a similar kind of strategy," he said. "There’s even been some talk that USA Today might become USA Today every other day. So maybe it’s a way to find a niche to deal with the economic challenges.”
Why is the Sun cutting out the Monday print edition rather than, say, Saturday?
The Publisher writes that readers have become accustomed to reading about Friday night high school sports on Saturday morning.
What he doesn’t say is that typically Saturday attracts far more in advertising dollars, and advertising typically represents the bulk of a paper’s income.
Even though Mondays are the Sun’s thinnest editions, many readers are in the habit of reading it before they go to work, and Ryan Chittum says breaking that habit may be dangerous for the paper.
Chittum is the Deputy Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review’s blog called The Audit.
“Because if you get people out of the habit of reading that paper every day, you may lose your entire business," he said. "We don’t have enough data or history to tell how this is going to play out yet.”
The Sun’s publisher hopes readers on Monday will start reading the paper on their laptops or smart phones.
But unlike the scenario of having one paper at your breakfast table, the internet provides readers with many competing options.
At this point though, Ryan Chittum says local residents have to take some responsibility.
“If people in a community want news coverage of their community and they want their leaders to be held accountable and for there to be a sort of base community gathering point in information, they’re going to have to support the paper. You can’t really complain if you’re not subscribing," Chittum said
As the Sun’s editor wrote a couple of weeks ago, the lack of a paper on Monday morning will be "disruptive of the status quo."
At the same time, he writes, it opens up "new opportunities."
The hope is that Daily Sun can last in some form or another for another hundred years.