[caption id="attachment_223388" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The Delaware State News, headquartered in Dover, is cutting more of its daily printed editions and scaling back newsstand sales while preparing to launch hyperlocal newspapers statewide. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
DOVER – Nearly 18 months after cutting two days out of its daily print schedule, the Delaware State News announced this month that it is dropping two more days and cutting back its newsstand sales amid an ambitious transformation.The reductions mean the State News will print only on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays later this month after cutting its printed Saturday and Monday editions last year. It has already launched a digital edition that features the traditional layout of a newspaper online every day of the week.The State News is also moving delivery of its paper to the U.S. Postal Service rather than through delivery people – a growing industry trend as such workers with required early-morning hours become harder to find – and paring back its newsstand sales to the bare minimum needed to fulfill legal notice requirements.Those dramatic changes to a decades-old newspaper come as print circulations are falling nationwide, but the State News’ parent company, Independent Newsmedia Inc. (INI), doesn’t believe print is dead. In fact, INI President and CEO Charlene Bisson told Delaware Business Times that she plans to aggressively invest in new, hyperlocal Delaware print products.“We will be the biggest circulation news company in Delaware in the next few years,” she predicted. “It's more than past time; the economy's not too bad, we're fiscally sound. This is the time to do it.”Bisson, a 24-year veteran of INI based in Arizona, has already employed that strategy to success in her home state, spreading 18 hyperlocal community newspapers across the Grand Canyon State along with a three-day, statewide newspaper, the Daily Independent.INI plans to roll out hyperlocal papers across Delaware in the next few years, starting with a Middletown-Smyrna paper that will launch this month and a Greater Dover area paper in December, Bisson said. They will be free publications mailed to residents of chosen zip codes and supported entirely through advertising, with each employing a reporter and an advertising associate.“At INI, we like to say that we will put out the best newspaper the local businesses will support,” she explained, noting that means some Arizona hyperlocals are 32 pages while some are 72 pages.The hyperlocals will be printed monthly or weekly depending on the demand, with websites updated between print runs. Meanwhile, the State News, which has traditionally had an outsized focus on its hometown of Dover, will feature some of the best stories from the hyperlocals and its own coverage for a more statewide approach.“The goal is to be broad-based through the daily and then the hyperlocal weeklies and monthlies will focus on community councils, school boards or high school sports – all that good refrigerator journalism,” Bisson said.Like Delaware where the State News’ biggest competitor is the Gannett-owned News Journal, INI’s Arizona newspapers compete against the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic. Bisson said that while the Republic may be more profitable than their organization, INI’s collection of state newspapers reaches a wider audience and touches more communities.INI’s unique ownership model as a journalistic trust, where profits are reinvested into the organization annually, rather than a profit-driven public company help it to offer lower advertising rates that are accessible to more of the public, Bisson said.The State News, which had a daily circulation of about 10,000 copies in 2020, said that it was not adjusting its print subscription price in lieu of the changes. It noted that digital-only access to its website, BaytoBayNews.com, was available for $55 a year.“The daily print subscriptions are going down, but the daily digital subscriptions are skyrocketing,” Bisson said. “We're just evolving our business model, and it's long overdue.”
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