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Monday, June 05, 2006

220 Year Old Afternoon Paper Moves to Morning

As those in Fort Wayne are painfully aware, afternoon daily newspapers are becoming an endangered species. No afternoon daily - no matter how long its heritage - seems immune.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, New Hampshire, has been an afternoon newspaper for 220 years. However, the managing editor announced this week that the 220 year streak is coming to end; the Daily Gazette is going to mornings.

The change reflects a trend among newspapers over several decades, according to data from the Newspaper Association of America.

In the early 1980s, 75 percent of America's daily newspapers were published in the afternoon. Conversion of papers from afternoon to morning publication escalated in the 1990s, and by 2000 the number published in the morning dominated. The shift from afternoon to morning publication schedules has continued since then.

The Gazette will continue to have complete coverage of local news, sports and business. Whether it's the results of local college or high school sporting events, a decision by a city council or school committee, or overnight breaking news, we'll be delivering the same stories we do now, just a lot earlier in the day.

The newspaper allows its readers to comment directly online for each story. Some folks didn't like the decision. Reader Susan Mew wrote:
Kind of sad that the Gazette needs to follow the pattern set by every other newspaper and lose one of its "hometown" characteristics. I've been seeing the Gazette delivered in the afternoon for over 50 years, so of course, it will be a big change. If that's what needs to be, all will need to adjust. I for one certainly have more time to read and relax in the evening
The last two comments posted had a different angle on the change. Nick wrote:
"Yeah, what took so long??? Hey earth to Gazette readers...The whole world went to AM about 10 years ago!!!"
Josh advised the editor:
You know this will drive people to use the online version instead don't you? Print is dead and this is just another attempt to put up a speed bump to slow down the natural move to online.

Are you implying that the News-Sentinel will switch to a morning paper? I thought the JOA prevented that....

Any word on the NS sale?
I'm actually surprised at the shift over the years. I grew up in Cleveland, delivering the AM Plain Dealer. Our competition was the PM Cleveland Press, which had us beat by a small number of subscribers.

The competition was actually pretty stagnant, because some folks liked to read the paper in the morning at breakfast or to take it to work to read at lunch. Others liked to read the paper at dinner or winding down in the evening. Subscriptions followed suit. Rarely did I pick up old Press subscribers.

Do less people really want to read in the evening? Sure, TV is a big factor, but throughout the 70s and 80s when I delivered papers, the networks were at their news peaks, free of competition from cable. They were actually breaking news at 6pm, which rarely happens now.

For what it's worth, the Cleveland Press went under in 1982. I picked up about 15 customers. The other 80-85 just weren't interested in an AM paper.
I grew up reading an afternoon paper, being among the aging population who still subscribes to and reads the paper. I suppose that's one of the reasons I subscribed to the News-Sentinel when we landed here and have subscribed every since but it's getting so pitifully thin.

Oh, and the afternoon paper I grew up reading, the Columbus Dispatch, has long since become a morning paper, after the long-ago demise of the Columbus Citizen-Journal.

I used to read the Cleveland Press when I resided in northern Ohio for awhile, as well as whatever the afternoon paper in Toledo was, I can't remember, I think it met its demise in the late seventies. Actually, it may have been the morning paper and The Blade was the afternoon paper then.
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