The Palo Alto Weekly in late September will begin publishing a single weekly print edition every Friday and a new electronic edition, "Express," Monday through Friday, Weekly publisher Bill Johnson announced this week.
The expanded Friday print edition will combine the news-oriented content of the current Wednesday paper with the arts and entertainment focus of the Friday "Weekend" edition.
It will continue to be distributed by mail or carrier to nearly every home in Palo Alto, to additional homes in Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, Stanford, Los Altos Hills and East Palo Alto, and to more than 100 racks and other locations throughout the Midpeninsula. The first edition of the combined newspaper will be on Sept. 26.
The new electronic daily edition will contain a digest of up-to-the-minute news stories, sports scores and local events, with links to more detailed information on the website Palo Alto Online. It will be distributed by e-mail at 10 a.m. each weekday to an initial list of more than 10,000 recipients in the Palo Alto area. It will also be sent out over the weekend if warranted by breaking local news. (Sign up for Express)
"These initiatives reflect more than a year of planning and our ongoing commitment to improving the way we meet the changing news and information needs of local residents and businesses in our tech-savvy community," Johnson said.
"Marketing surveys completed last year clearly showed that residents are increasingly obtaining their local news, sports and event information on a daily basis from Palo Alto Online and had a preference for one print edition per week instead of two," Johnson said.
Both nationally and locally, readership of daily newspapers has been declining as readers turn to online alternatives for breaking news and other specialized content and advertising.
The Weekly has more than twice the circulation of any other newspaper serving the Palo Alto area — 37,000 — and Palo Alto Online is the most heavily visited local website. An estimated 70,000 Midpeninsula residents are regular readers of the Weekly, according to the marketing surveys. Palo Alto Online averages more than 120,000 unique visitors and a half-million page views each month.
Johnson said combining the Wednesday and Friday print editions of the Weekly not only reflects the changing preferences of busy local residents and the convenience of the Internet but also offers the added benefit of reducing the newspaper's "carbon footprint."
"As residents increasingly prefer to turn to the Web for up-to-the-minute news and information, it makes less and less sense to incur the enormous effort, expense and environmental impact of printing and transporting newspapers to readers," Johnson said. "Breaking news is now stale by the time even a daily newspaper reaches readers."
"Our vision is to increasingly rely on our website and our daily electronic edition to provide local news and sports coverage, and to use our newspaper to present in-depth and feature coverage, plus summaries of the week's news," Johnson said.
For many residents, this is already their habit.
It is not uncommon for more than 2,000 people to read an important local news story within two or three hours of its posting on Palo Alto Online. Developing stories, such as the ongoing updates on the fatal July 13 shooting in downtown Palo Alto, were read by more than 10,000 people over the course of a day.
Advertising on Palo Alto Online by local businesses has been growing at a rapid rate, and the site has been profitable for several years, Johnson said. Advertisers can choose from packages that feature both print and online components so that their message reaches all demographic segments of the community. The new daily e-mailed edition will have three featured advertising positions, which Johnson expects to be extremely popular among advertisers due to the targeted audience.
Johnson said that although putting out a single print edition per week will reduce distribution costs, the savings are relatively small and not the motivation for the change.
"Like all newspapers, we are reducing our costs wherever we can during this economic downturn," he said. "But these new initiatives reflect our long-term view of how we can best serve the needs of our readers and advertisers."
The Palo Alto Weekly began as a weekly publication in 1979 and then expanded to twice-a-week in March 1993 when the daily Peninsula Times Tribune ceased publishing.
Through Palo Alto Online, the Weekly has long been a pioneer in online publishing, Johnson said. It was the first newspaper in the United States to publish its contents on the World Wide Web in 1994 and has developed numerous online features, including local sports and real estate websites, video advertising, a popular community discussion forum, Town Square, and Fogster, a classified-ad website.