With employees mostly working from their homes, the Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online will continue providing local news coverage for the community even as businesses have closed and residents are confined to their homes except for trips for groceries, medications or essential work.
The size of the print edition of the Palo Alto Weekly will be reduced due to the shutdown of most commercial activity and the resulting cancellations of advertising. Distribution of the paper will also be temporarily stopped or reduced to businesses and commercial districts where there is little or no activity.
Home delivery will continue to all residents who are current or past subscribers, as well as those who have formally requested delivery in the past but did not pay for it. Others will need to become subscribing members by signing up at PaloAltoOnline.com/subscribe to receive delivery.
"Like most small businesses, we are in a very challenging financial situation, with employees we value and fixed overhead costs but little current revenue," Weekly Publisher and Embarcadero Media President Bill Johnson said. "But unlike other businesses, our role as the primary source of reliable local news in the community means that in times of crisis our work is more important than ever."
News organizations are designated as essential businesses and are exempt under Monday's public health order closing most Bay Area businesses. However, Embarcadero Media has directed its employees to work mostly from home for their own safety unless it is impossible to get essential work done.
"We will be assessing our capacity to continue producing both a home-delivered printed newspaper and our widely used website as the coronavirus crisis continues," Johnson said. "Much will depend on our success at increasing the number of paid subscribers to offset falloffs in advertising.
Johnson said that traffic to PaloAltoOnline.com, the Weekly's website, has exploded over the last two weeks, with more than 700,000 unique visitors in the last 30 days, about double the normal volume.
Embarcadero Media's other Peninsula newspapers, the Mountain View Voice and Menlo Park Almanac, will temporarily suspend their print editions next week so that their staffs can focus entirely on online reporting, Johnson said. Those suspensions will continue until the coronavirus crisis has been brought under control, businesses reopen and consumer activity resumes.
"As an advertising-dependent business, it is simply not viable to continue absorbing the high costs of printing and mailing each of our newspapers in this environment," Johnson said. "Our hope is that readers and major community institutions will recognize the important role we play and step up to help stabilize all three news organizations with subscriptions and institutional memberships."
"That will help us shift our revenue model from one dependent on struggling small businesses to one that relies on readers each contributing a modest amount of as little as $5 per month," Johnson said.
Readers can sign up to become subscribing members at PaloAltoOnline.com/subscribe.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.