To better serve its readers, the Bay Area News Group has restructured its newspaper portfolio, folding six newspapers into just two publications (the East Bay Times and The Mercury News) and adding three additional community weeklies (The Argus, The Daily Review and the Oakland Tribune)—rounding out its current weekly count to 30.
According to Sharon Ryan, BANG president and publisher, this strategy will reduce production costs and allow the media group to allocate more resources toward creating original content.
While Ryan said making these changes was difficult, they were in line with what the readers wanted. The changes, which took effect in April, were a response to a reader’s survey the company sent out last fall. Ryan said they found that BANG readers most valued original, community content. Subscribers now receive one of the 30 weekly community papers as an insert with their regional paper.
“It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and tell people what they’re doing wrong, but (there are) a lot of smart, dedicated people that are in this to figure out (how) to create a sustainable business model to continue to fulfill our mission and serve the communities that we are a part of,” Ryan said.
The data BANG collects (reader’s comments, website traffic and more) will allow the group to make more informed decisions about what products they’re going to put into the market, what stories they’ll tell, how they’ll package those stories, and whether to deliver them in print, digital or on social media, said Ryan.
BANG will also launch a video team to expand its digital offerings for readers and advertisers. The team will include some new talent, as well as current employees. The company will be investing in new technologies and positions as the organization moves forward.
Along with the company’s restructuring, 30 buyouts were offered to longtime BANG employees. However, at the time E&P spoke with Ryan, no specific numbers were given on how many people accepted one.
Ryan said the overall goal of rebranding is to grow audience and revenue to create a sustainable business model to continue serving the Bay Area. While these are big changes for the company, she said they will continue to listen to readers, watch industry trends and pivot away from ineffective strategies to propel themselves forward.
“It’s not like we’re going to do the research and make changes and then we’re going to wash our hands and say ‘Good, we’re done,’ Ryan said. “The whole philosophy is this is an ongoing, ever changing process, and we have to be adaptable, and we have to change, and we need to allocate our resources where the opportunities are, and what our consumers are saying is important to them.”