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Star Tribune to drop Saturday newsstand edition

OK, it’s not quite as dramatic as that seems. It’s true that after this weekend, you won’t be able to buy a Saturday Strib from a box or rack. Instead, beginning Oct. 24, you’ll find the “NEW Early Sunday Star Tribune.”

Essentially, the Strib is smushing together its Saturday news sections and the ad-filled Sunday comics package and adding a Sunday dateline. The paper will drop the early Sunday (actually later Saturday) “bulldog” edition that included everything but late-breaking news. Newsstand readers can still get the full Sunday paper, including Opinion Exchange, Travel, etc., on Sunday.

The good news for Saturday readers is they’ll still pay the Saturday price (50 cents in the metro, 75 cents elsewhere) and get the Sunday ads — which, let’s face it, are a draw for many readers. Meanwhile, the Strib will boost its Sunday circulation figure.

What’s interesting: at a time when the media is talking about getting more revenue directly from customers, the Strib is basically trading a little circulation revenue for prospective ad dollars.

According to spokesman Ben Taylor, the paper currently sells 47,000 Saturday newsstand editions and 17,500 Sunday bulldogs. If those bulldogs become “NEW Early Sunday” sales, the Strib would reap roughly a buck less per paper; $17,500 a week, or $910,000 a year.

On the flip, “Sunday” circulation would rise by 47,000 — that many more buyers would see the ad-fat inserts, and advertisers would pay more. Distribution and production savings from producing two weekend editions instead of three are undoubtedly part of the equation.

Taylor says other papers that have done the Saturday-Sunday smush include the Miami Herald and Hartford Courant. According to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, the Hartford paper reports just 124 Saturday newsstand sales, compared to 45,791 on Sundays and about 13,000 on weekdays.

Personally, I’ve long viewed Sunday papers as an anachronism of a more churchgoing age. I’d kill for my Sunday New York Times to come on Saturday, when I’d have two weekend days to linger over the news features, and the Strib’s “exclusive” Sunday features are all ready to go on Saturday. I’ll bet Target and Best Buy would rather have 500,000 Strib Sunday buyers see their circulars a day early.

It’s been years since I’ve asked why newspapers don’t just switch. Production hassles, I assume. I didn’t have a chance to ask anyone late Monday when I was reporting this, so if you work at one of the dailies, and can explain, please add a comment below.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Kimbers Cadieux on 10/13/2009 - 09:08 am.

    This is an interesting idea. Especially if they manage to keep the price the same for the long term.

    Target, Best Buy and the other retailers who really do stand to gain from this, would be well served to consider adding an extra page to their inserts that would have sale items available on Saturday only to boost end of week sales.

    Sounds like a win-win for everyone.

  2. Submitted by Louis Petersen on 10/13/2009 - 09:10 am.

    Sounds like a good idea….

  3. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 10/13/2009 - 09:11 am.

    I’ve wondered about the larger Sunday rather than Saturday ad sections as well. It seems like real estate would like it for the open houses, automotive since they’re open, and retailers who have two days to get people into the stores.

  4. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/13/2009 - 09:19 am.

    What a stupid decision. If people can get the Target ad for 50 cents, they’re not coming back the next day. Not only that, Target doesn’t like the ads hitting so early. If you know stuff is going on sale tomorrow, you’re probably not going shopping today.

    As it is, there is almost nothing of news value in the Sunday paper. It’s essentially a magazine with weekly news round ups. I mean do you really think that someone who picks up the Sunday paper on a news stand is going to use the ads in the Travel section to book a vacation. The Opinion “section” is four pages long and is filled with, frankly, tired voices.

    Only in the newspaper business is stupidity pushed around as “profound adaptive marketing strategy.”

  5. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 10/13/2009 - 09:44 am.

    Frankly, about the only thing that keeps me buying a paper is the comics section. I know, they’re online, but I’m one of those who likes to hold the paper and sip my coffee while reading it.

    What’s going to happen to my Saturday funnies?

  6. Submitted by David Brauer on 10/13/2009 - 11:07 am.

    Sheila –

    Have no fear. I’m pretty sure the Saturday and Sunday comics will both be in the “NEW Sunday” edition.

  7. Submitted by dan buechler on 10/13/2009 - 01:48 pm.

    Everything and I mean everything revolves around the sunday circulation number. It is at least 2.5 to 3 times more important than the daily numbers. Take it from someone who was in the biz for 25 years. The day will come when dailies may disappear and a no news weekend shopper could arrive. They do not need a newsroom, a in house printer or even dedicated trucks or employees just a few managers, clerks and salespeople.

  8. Submitted by Richard Parker on 10/13/2009 - 01:59 pm.

    Streamlining the production process makes sense these days. My perspective is from the newsroom, where I spent a little over 37 years. In the 1970s, before the Bulldog, our first Sunday edition went to bed at 6 p.m. Saturday and we’d take a dinner break at Richard’s on 4th St. (The Wagon didn’t serve food on Saturdays then.) We’d return to work at 7, when the first papers were coming off the presses, and see people lined up in cars at 4th and Portland to buy those early copies. One Saturday, reporter Peg Meier went down the line and asked each driver his or her reason for being there. For most, it was the want ads. For a few, it was TV Week. Not a one was buying a paper for the news sections, our work.

    When the Bulldog was inaugurated in the 1980s, a separate editing crew was created to fill the news sections on Friday night. That gave way to a system that added the Bulldog material to the regular copy-desk workload with, as I recall, a little extra staffing. Layout was done by a designated staffer. As an editgor on the State team, from the mid to late 1990s I got to choose and edit those interesting and sometimes offbeat stories from Wisconsin papers that filled the spaces between the ads in the Bulldog B section. Meanwhile, a nation/world editor was picking out material to fill the A section. The fine-tuning and headline writing for all that filler material were added to the Friday night live routine. It seemed to me to be a significant investment in staffing — or piling on of our workload — to create a product that most people wouldn’t buy for its news content. Most of those fillers we diligently trimmed and edited on Friday nights were thrown out when the later Sunday editions were produced.

    So the Strib’s move makes sense to me. Just add those ad sections and comics to the Saturday paper for street sales!

    Though I second-guessed management about imposing the extra staff effort, I must admit to being a Bulldog beneficiary in civilian life. The Christmas season after my 2007 retirement, I was able to buy a very scarce Wii video-game system because I spotted it in the Target ad supplement on a Saturday at Superamerica and got to Target at 7 a.m. Sunday to line up outside the store.

  9. Submitted by Troy McCullough on 10/13/2009 - 02:44 pm.

    You want your Sunday New York Times on Saturday? Move to New York. We get the features sections, plus the book review and the magazine early.

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