Weekly to combine print editions, launch 'e-daily'

Publisher cites readership trends: More people seek breaking news online, depth in print

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.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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Like this comment
Posted by sally
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2008 at 3:26 pm

I like web-based news. You don't have to kill trees for paper and the news is fresher. Printed news is at least 1-2 days old. TV news lacks depth.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2008 at 7:58 pm


Like this comment
Posted by News Junkie
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm

If you live in Palo Alto it'll be really easy to know the days of the week by which of our three local papers are available.

Saturday and Sunday you can only get the PA Daily, on Monday you can only get the PA Daily Post, Tuesday thru Thursday you can get both the PA Daily and the PA Daily Post. Friday will be the big day because on that day you will get the PA Daily, the PA Daily Post and hippie the PA Weekly!!

The PA Weekly will truly be, a "Once a Weeker"!!

Like this comment
Posted by save the trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 15, 2008 at 8:36 pm

I am fed up with having my mail box and driveway cluttered with these papers.

They should all be optional and online.

Like this comment
Posted by gregory
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2008 at 1:38 am

it looks like the Weekly is circling the drain ...

Like this comment
Posted by gregory
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2008 at 1:41 am

2,000 pageviews is supposed to be a lot? In a town of 60,000 with a daytime population of probably double that? That's an incredibly small number by either online standards or traditional print standards. The weekly's online effort sounds about as strong as its print side, which is to say they're both doomed.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2008 at 3:22 am

Hmm .. the City Council ought to get an email about this. Just a week ago, or so, they lectured the City Clerk about not publishing notifications in the Weekly's print edition with something that a dinosaur-rider might say: "We don't want to go there" (wasn't that everybody's friend Jack Morton)?

Well .. newspapers all over are having troubles. Claiming that e-publishing can't work, doesn't work, is no substitute for paper is a myth that is being put to the test all over the world.

Of course .. this could be a response to the pressure the Daily Post is putting on the "news model" of two editions a week--rather than the everyday model that the Daily News and Daily Post use.

Like this comment
Posted by I enjoy my Papers
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

I like the City's Commissions and Council Agendas published in the paper, they're right there as I'm reading the paper. O yes, I can get them on line but I'm too lazy to do all that clicking around the silly City's messy website!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 18, 2008 at 6:11 am

Tried twice to sign up for Express. Both times after I "submit" I got redirected back to the same sign up page. There is a glitch.

Like this comment
Posted by Will not miss the Weekly
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 18, 2008 at 6:44 am

Maybe Johnson should be more concerned about the impending failure of his "newspaper" rather than trying to stifle free speech by having the racks of a superior paper removed from the streets.
I do hope that the single friday addition will be big, so that I will have enough paper to line my kitty litter box.

Like this comment
Posted by Frank Bravo
director of IT, Embarcadero Media and webmaster of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 18, 2008 at 7:45 am

Frank Bravo is a registered user.

Sue, are you getting any error messages when you are trying to submit your information? I just tried the process and it worked as it should. You can e-mail me off-list at webmaster [at] and we can figure out what is going on.

Like this comment
Posted by Wow
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 18, 2008 at 11:50 am

Will -
At least your cat will have reliable knowledge about the community.

Like this comment
Posted by Not Believing The Hype
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2008 at 2:29 pm

For a publisher that has seen his paper's page count drop rather dramatically over the past few years - some issues seem more like a pamphlet than a newspaper - Bill Johnson spinning like a top to ensure this news is seen as a positive mood.

I thought a news site was supposed to tell it like it is, not publish self-serving PR fluff pieces.

Like this comment
Posted by gabriella
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2008 at 4:06 am

I've got to agree with Diana Diamond that I like having 3 newspapers in town. But I also agree with her that the 1st amendment rights of the Post were violated by the city government .. which was being pushed or manipulated by the Weekly. The city should have stood up to the Weekly and told them that all newspapers needed to be treated the same. I don't want the Weekly to fold, but I think the actions of its management toward limiting the news-paper rack positions of the Post were reprehensible. The Weekly should realize that the same 1st amendment that protects the Weekly also applies to a little paper like the Post!

Like this comment
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Aug 19, 2008 at 7:38 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Time to inject a few facts into this topic.

Contrary to the grossly distorted reporting on this issue by the Daily Post and Diana Diamond, the city simply acted to enforce the downtown news rack ordinance that prohibits free-standing news racks on University Ave. and the cross-streets. The Weekly, Daily News and San Jose Mercury all complained to the city that it was unfair to all the newspapers that were abiding by the law for it to ignore the willful violations by the Daily Post. The Weekly has no objection to the Daily Post being assigned news racks in the modular structures, but it does object to it receiving special treatment or being allowed to violate the rules.

Daily Post owner Dave Price was a part of the group of publishers (which included the Weekly, San Jose Mercury, SF Chronicle and many other publications) that worked with the city to craft the ordinance many years ago in the interest of eliminating the ugly clutter of free-standing racks downtown. He is free to now sue the city, if he wishes, to challenge the ordinance, but he should not be free to turn a simple code enforcement action into a First Amendment issue in which he paints newspapers that comply with the law as the bad guys.

Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 19, 2008 at 7:57 am

svatoid is a registered user.

Love Johnson's version of the "facts". Basically he is right and the Post and Diamond are lying.
Isn't the question really whether the ordinance was constitutional or not. Cities can pass ordinances all the time--their legality is a question.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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