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.