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Adaptation: print isn’t dead yet

September 15: Last June, The Republican, based in Springfield, Mass., cut costs by publishing in tabloid format twice a week. Not alone in the trend, thinner newspapers dominated 2008 and 2009. For The Republican, however, the fasting has come to an end. On Monday, the Massachusetts daily returned to its full-sized roots claiming to be “bigger and better” than before.

Not only will the paper grow in length, but it will also grow in bulk with new features, including an all-new business section, a new column in the parenting section, a guide of things to do, and expanded health and science coverage. The Saturday edition will once again feature an opinion page as well as a new lifestyle and entertainment guide called Pioneer Valley Life. “It would appear The Republican actually went out and did a marketing study and found out what its readers really wanted and gave them what they asked for,” said David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group.

The Massachusetts daily isn’t the only newspaper to gain some ground in 2010, however. Lately, several papers have announced growth in their print editions. Like The Republican, the Detroit Free Press has bulked up its product. A year ago, the Free Press discontinued home delivery four days a week. Recently, the paper went back to publishing a stand-alone business section on Tuesdays and added more sports coverage. The Wednesday and Saturday editions now include separate Life and Business sections, in addition to several new advertising sections.

Based on the success seen with its digital products, the Free Press was able to invest in print once again, noted publisher and editor Paul Anger in a letter to readers in June. “The vast majority of our subscribers have stuck with us, and the Free Press is the nation’s eighth-largest Sunday newspaper,” he wrote. “Traffic to Freep.com is up, and traffic to our mobile sites is up dramatically.”

According to Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Tribune is also expanding and will be coming out with a new weekly edition in January called Five Star. Meanwhile, Cablevision’s Newsday in New York is adding heft to its newsroom, and reportedly hiring 34 new reporters and increasing local news coverage. Coates noted that it isn’t a surprise that Newsday would be trying to amp up coverage as the “Long Island and New York City news source,” especially when Aol’s Patch.com continues to branch out in the New York area. “Patch, which calls itself a ‘community-specific news and information platform’ has set up shop in 36 new towns, 21 of which are located on Long Island,” he said. “There are seven more Patch sites coming to New York, six of which will be on the island. Newsday finds itself in a local news battle that it needs to win in order to continue to stay relevant.”

The trend toward expansion continues with the Wall Street Journal, which announced it was launching a book review section despite last year’s near extinction of the book review, when newspapers cut them left and right.

Although the print industry’s death is predicted almost every day, it would look as if print publishers are beginning to adapt to the times. “These changes in the newspaper business are the result of an economy that is improving and a business that is starting to find out what its readers want rather than telling its readers what they want,” Coates said.

— Katrina M. Mendolera

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