Now it begins....

Dateline: Thu 19 Sep 2013

The rumors are true: The Indianapolis Star has confirmed that it will roll out a new version of the newspaper on Oct. 6, featuring USA Today content.

Here's the story that the Star publsihed today: 

http://www.indystar.com/viewart/20130919/BUSINESS/309190020/Indianapolis-Star-announces-plan-boost-local-national-content-partnership-USA-Today

Publisher Karen Crotchfelt is selling it as a bigger, better version of the Indianapolis Star, with a big boost in local and national content. The story, by Tony Cook, is focused on the word "significant

"The Indianapolis Star will significantly increase its local and national content beginning Oct. 6, publisher Karen Crotchfelt announced today.

"The changes will add more than 70 pages and several new sections and features to The Star every week. Among the more significant additions will be expanded local coverage — especially news from the suburbs — as well as a new daily world and national news section. That section will be produced through a first-of-its-kind partnership with USA Today, the national newspaper published by The Star’s parent company, Virginia-based Gannett Co."

Gannett Blog's Jim Hopkins, a former USA Today editor and reporter with a background in business and investigative writing, has this to say:

"The project, if successful, would be one of the biggest new initiatives in Gannett's recent history. It's a bold and risky bet on print's future amid declining circulation and advertising, even as the century-old company battles to become a digital powerhouse."

The bottom line, says Hopkins, is that this move is really about bolstering USA Today, which is suffering in comparison to its two competitors, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. USA Today has been losing circulation while the other two national papers are picking up steam.

Hotels used to buy USA Today and offer it free to guests. That went bust when hotel guests simply ignored the paper in favor of smart phones and tablets, reports Hopkins.

Readers of this blog weighed in this morning and are predictably skeptical. One email, headlined "Laughable," contained this comment:

"Star announces partnership with USA Today. Isn’t that equivalent to going into business with your father?

 "Boost local content. Local content filed out of Louisville? OK, I know the designers are in Louisville but are we really to believe that more than a skeleton staff will be working from the Nordstrom building?"

Another former employee wrote, under the heading "What a spin!":

"So, this seems to be the ultimate spin-more coverage that has nothing to do with Indiana, let alone Indy, and this makes the Star a better paper for who?

"Just "pipe" the 10pt type in from elsewhere and slap it down. The doesn't require the local expense of an actual reporter or photographer! Ugh!

"So I can by the Star and USA from the same news stand and they have the same stories. Really?"

Other comments voicing similar concerns can be found aplenty on the Star's web page.

I will believe it all when I see it -- more local content, all that. One aspect I do believe is that this will lead to a boost in cost to subscribers. As Hopkins says, "Restoring local news reduced during cost-cutting since 2008 could  be used to sell readers on any subscription increases."

I will continue my subscription -- $43.07 for 3 months is the retired employee rate - but I fear, as always, that Gannett has only its own corporate financial interests at the heart of any of its strategies. If only the company would focus on news and keeping a stable staff of competent, veteran reporters and editors, maybe its success would be more assured.

Here is the link to Gannett Blog:

http://gannettblog.blogspot.com/

 

 

Comments

ComputerWheels [Member] said:

Yeah, I saw the big "announcement" Sunday.

My initial reaction was padding from USA Today, but what surprised me was bulking out the daily Star. That means more newsprint, and we all know how publishers have bemoaned that cost as second only to salaries. So apparently with costs chopped, now they're willing to spend some money.

Realistically, the Sunday Star has had some good local insight stories lately, something you can't get elsewhere, and that alone makes the print edition worth reading.

So while the Star will never be what it was in the past, I'd say the jury's still out on print survival.

2013-09-23 09:22:54

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