Free advice for newspaper executives

I suppose this comment is a tad hypocritical as my wife sits at the breakfast table beside me reading the newspaper at 7:29 a.m. on a Saturday, but ...

As newspapers struggle with falling circulation, which results in staff cuts (ahem!), and, in Alberta, are having a tough time finding adult carriers due to the labour crunch ... have they considered that perhaps the morning publishing and delivery model isn't working for them anymore?

As a teenager, I delivered the Winnipeg Free Press after school because the Freep, like pretty much every other paper, delivered in the afternoons so that people had their newspaper when they arrived home at suppertime.

The Sun chain, which published in the mornings and emphasized single-copy sales rather than delivery, changed the entire model for the industry. Now everyone delivers in the mornings. In Alberta, this has resulted in massive turnover of carriers - teens can't deliver the paper at 5 a.m., and not many adults want to, either.

Plus, when you get your paper at 6 a.m., it's news from 10 o'clock the night before, and more often than that, news from mid-afternoon the day before. It's not news ... it's history. You've already seen the same stuff covered on the supper-time news or on the late-night news.

And for all the talk in the newspaper industry that newspapers bring context to yesterday's news that the TV news folks don't ... well, it's largely bunk. Particularly when everyone is or has been cutting staff. There's no one left in newsrooms to bring that context.

Maybe the Sun chain or the CanWest chain should experiment with turning themselves into an afternoon paper. That would bring news to people's doorsteps in a much more timely fashion - read: before the 6 p.m. TV news - and would bring teenagers back into the newspaper delivery system, which might help the industry's current labour woes on the delivery side.

I'm not guaranteeing that circulation would go up (particularly when newspapers seem hell-bent on putting all of their content on the Internet for free anyway - why would anyone actually pay for a hard-copy newspaper these days?).

But going back to delivering in the afternoon is not going to harm circulation any worse than the business decisions of the last few years have killed circulation (as newspapers also seem hell-bent on competing with all of the free content on the Internet by reducing staff, thereby insuring they have less content for their few remaining paying customers.)
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