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The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper

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In September, the Columbus Dispatch and Cincinnati Enquirer will shrink.  Not the number of subscribers or number of employees this time, but rather the actual size of the papers.

The Columbus Dispatch will begin printing the Gannett-owned Cincinnati Enquirer and sister publication, the Kentucky Enquirer on their new 3-around press, which is the first press to print three sheets in a single revolution, rather than the traditional two.  The new press is said to result in up to a 33% reduction in newsprint consumption.

In addition, this will also reduce the size of both papers from 22” x 11.5” to 14.6” x 10.5”.  The Dispatch has conducted several focus groups on the subject and report that the feedback from “loyal users”, or adults 45+ who read the newspaper seven days per week, is that the smaller design is easier to read, easier to transport and more appealing than the current larger version.

From a consumer standpoint, perhaps this is revolutionary and will help publishers hold on to the current subscriber base.  On the flip side, however, I don’t think that current advertisers and their agencies are nearly as excited.

It simply won’t be feasible to incorporate as much content in 14” as you previously could in 22”.  Will more advertisers purchase two pages side-by-side?  The pricing structure will certainly have to be completely revamped as well.  My experience is that newspapers have been doing advertisers a “favor” by holding rates for the last few years, despite declining circulation.  While the cost per ad has stayed the same, the CPM has risen.  Essentially, advertisers are paying a flat rate but reaching fewer consumers.

The rest of the newspaper world seems to be holding their breath and waiting to gauge how this transition fares for the newspapers in Columbus and Cincinnati.  I, for one, am glad that the Courier Journal is not the test product.  They are a Gannett property, so we may not be far behind the Dispatch and Enquirer.

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