March 10, 2017

Earlier this week, the Hattiesburg American announced a big change: Starting next month, they’re cutting print from seven days a week down to three.

Nathan Edwards, president of the Hattiesburg American, wrote on Wednesday about the change as a way to build on a digital-first approach to the news.

Our research shows subscribers are increasingly choosing to access the American online via our website, mobile and tablet devices, with the Hattiesburg American having 8 [times] more digital readers than print readers. In 2016, we had 2.3 million unique visitors and 13.8 million pageviews. Audiences watched our videos 251,000 times — and another 774,000 times on Facebook. And the average time you spent on our stories went up 2 percent.

The American, part of Gannett’s USA Today Network, isn’t the first newspaper to distance itself from print to prioritize digital news. In 2012, the Times-Picayune cut its print frequency to three days per week. The Dallas Morning News, which made a big shift toward digital last year, recently outsourced print production and laid off 25 employees.

Poynter reached out to Erin Kosnac, the news director for the American, for comment on the change. She pointed to Edwards’s announcement, which promised that while print frequency was changing, the commitment to covering the community was not.

“We live here. We work here. And we love it here,” Edwards wrote.

The newsroom currently has nine people, according to its website.

Three robust editions might make more sense than seven shrinking ones, said Poynter’s Rick Edmonds. It’s also not a totally new idea.

“The three-day-a-week drill is especially prevalent among Advance Local papers of all sizes,” Edmonds said. “But Digital First and now Gannett are considering it for their smaller papers.”

The benefit is that untethering from print can help move a newsroom faster into becoming digital.

The downside, Edmonds said, “is that older print readers hate it.”

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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