Gwinnett cuts days; group printing consolidated

The Gwinnett Post is cutting its printing days from 7 to 5 next month becoming a Wednesday-Sunday publication. In addition, several other papers in the SCNI group, which owns Gwinnett, are cutting from 5 to 3 days. Gwinnett will also begin printing some of its sister newspapers.
This is a trend across the country as daily newspapers cut costs by decreasing frequency and consolidating their printing. Along with this, Gwinnett and other daily papers are making a huge push toward digital content distribution.
I look for other daily papers to follow this trend in the coming months.

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ABH outsourcing printing?

It appears that the ABH will soon begin outsourcing its print product and close down its printing press in Athens. This is a growing trend among small and midsize daily newspapers across the country as many seek to cut costs. Although central publishing plants have always been a main source of publishing for weekly newspapers, it has been rare in the daily world until the 2008 recession. Macon began outsourcing its daily paper a couple years ago and there’s been a strong move toward more central publishing among all newspaper in the state in the last 5 years.
In addition to the direct cost involved, daily papers are also less willing today to invest in new printing technology as they move toward a “digital first” operation. Among daily newspapers in general, print is becoming a secondary distribution channel behind digital.
Weekly newspapers, while having digital products, haven’t moved that direction as strongly and print remains the mainstay.
That the ABH is moving this direction isn’t new. But whether or not the paper will move out of its downtown location as Macon plans to do isn’t clear. It wouldn’t surprise me if many daily newspapers don’t seek to downsize their buildings and have reporters working from home off laptops rather than inside a traditional newsroom. In addition to print consolidation, some daily papers have taken their page production off shore to India and other places where labor is less expensive. In theory, a daily newspaper could be produced with only a very small office and outsource most of its news gathering, ad layout and page layout.

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A sign that Athens may cut back on its print editions?

The following story was posted at the Atlanta Business Chronicle today:

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2011/12/07/athens-banner-herald-home-sold-for.html

You have to wonder if this might be the start of the ABH newspaper cutting back on its print products and focusing mostly on its “digital first” program. Many daily newspapers are really looking at iPad and other pad distribution for the long term. Getting rid of print and its associated distribution costs would cut a huge amount of expense out the system.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not readers are ready to give up the printed page for the digital page.

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Barrow Journal named county legal organ

Our publication in Barrow County, the Barrow Journal, has been named as the local Legal Organ Newspaper for 2012 and 2013. State law mandates that a newspaper vying for legal organ status be published for 2 years, has above 75% paid circulation and has an independent audit of is circulation for verification. The Journal has been publishing for 3 years.

After 2013, the Journal will rotate legal organ status with the Barrow County News on two-year cycles.

The legal organ status is determined by a vote of the sheriff, probate judge and clerk of superior court. The secretary of state’s office is notified each December by the probate judge as to the newspaper that is to serve for the following year.

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Times abandons Jefferson push…

The Gainesville Times has reportedly abandoned its effort to expand its Hoschton-based “The Paper” as a paid circulation newspaper into the Jefferson area. The Paper, which is published by the Times, competes with our free circulation Braselton News in the west side of Jackson County.

The Times made a push with its daily newspaper in the Jefferson area last year, but didn’t do very well, in part due to daily distribution in the same area from the Athens Banner Herald and the AJC.

During the summer, The Times began the process of pushing subscribers for its formerly free The Paper. The subscription effort was targeted in the Jefferson area and it looked as if The Times would abandon its West Jackson office for Jefferson.

But insiders report that The Paper couldn’t generate very many paid subscriptions and has now gone back to a totally free distribution model, except for a few paid news racks in the Jefferson area.

The Times began is The Paper in 2005 to compete with our Braselton News. But since that time, the West Jackson market fell on hard times due to the recession. For now, both papers remain free circulation in the Braselton-Hoschton market.

Mainstreet Newspapers also competes with The Times in Barrow County.

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Mouthpiece reporting…

Newspapers are supposed to be independent institutions in a community. But all too often, they become the mouthpiece for political leaders that they favor.

A story earlier this week in a competing newspaper was so fawning and misleading about an important local issue that it bears comment here.

In our Barrow County newspaper last week, we broke a story about how Winder city officials had mishandled the purging of names from the city’s voter list, resulting in around 40% of registered city voters targeted to have their names purged from the list. They would have had to vote a provisional ballot if that had happened.

The city tried to blame our newspaper for making a big deal out of the issue and claimed that the list we had was not “final.” The other newspaper in town quickly became the city’s mouthpiece in the issue. In a lengthy, misleading story, they published the city’s spin on the matter, including this paragraph:

“Essentially, any work that was done on this list is hypothetical and not written in stone. No one was removed from the voters list. Being hypothetical, that list was not an accurate representation of who will be challenged by the city.”

Hypothetical?

No attribution was given for that nutty comment, meaning the newspaper simply made up a cover story for their friends at city hall.

That’s poor journalism. Essentially, it was hypothetical journalism.

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Is The Times abandoning Braselton & Hoschton?

It appears that the Gainesville Times may be preparing to move its Hoschton-based weekly newspaper out of the town. The firm has recently applied for a second class postal permit and has been trying to sell subscriptions in Jefferson while cutting back on its free newsrack distribution.

It has also began doing two editions, one geared for the Jefferson market and a slightly different front page for the Braselton-Hoschton area. And the firm recently moved its mailing address to a PO box, an indication it may be laying the groundwork to give up its physical office in Hoschton.

The Times began its weekly paper in Hoschton at the same time our firm began the Braselton News as an extension of The Jackson Herald in 2005. That was at the heyday of the building boom and since then, the Braselton-Hoschton retail and real estate market has fallen on hard times.

With its increasing focus on reporting in the Jefferson area, it appears as if the Times may abandon Hoschton for an office in the county seat to go head to head with The Herald. Earlier efforts to push The Times daily paper into the Jefferson market failed.

Jackson County is a battleground between three large corporate daily newspaper chains — Athens (owned by one Morris group); Gainesville (owned by the other Morris chain); and Gwinnett (owned by another large chain.)

 

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