By: George Garneau
Oak Ridge, Tenn., daily abandons Sunday edition, replacing it with expanded Friday weekend edition sp.
THE OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oak Ridger has abandoned its Sunday edition and replaced it with a greatly expanded Friday weekend edition.
Along with its Sunday paper, the Oak Ridger abandoned any pretensions of covering the world and refocused its identity as a strictly local paper, publisher Pete Esser said.
The 11,000-circulation afternoon Stauffer Communications daily Oct. 23 dumped the Sunday edition that it started in 1988. The Sunday Oak Ridg-er’s circulation never surpassed the daily’s.
Killing a Sunday paper goes against a long, continuing national trend in which Sunday circulation, and circulation growth, has surpassed weekday.
The paper made the about-face after realizing that it couldn’t compete Sundays with the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which is based 20 miles east but has a high penetration in Oak Ridge, and larger metro papers.
In an odd quirk of newspapering, for readers in the market who want a full-service Sunday paper, the Oak Ridger has offered to deliver the New York Times or Atlanta Constitution. Between 150 and 200 Oak Ridge residents opted for one or the other, for $16.25 and $8.50 a month, respectively.
“There’s no way on God’s earth we are going to produce anything like a Sunday Constitution or Sunday Times,” Esser said.
The move to a larger Friday paper, incorporating many features of the Sunday edition, was dictated by market studies showing that readers, many of whom do not work on weekends, wanted ads and community information before the weekend, Esser said.
When informed of the findings, advertisers went along, he said.
Most Sunday advertisers have shifted to the Friday paper or to the Monday and Tuesday papers, which have expanded to about 24 pages, from 16, he said.
The new Friday edition is larger than the former Sunday edition and includes an expanded auto section, new real estate magazine and newly formatted help-wanted classified ad section.
To fill the gap in local news coverage during the weekend ? for readers who can’t wait until Monday for local sports scores, for example, the paper started RidgeLine, an audiotex service delivering news, weather, sports and school information by telephone.
“It’s not perfect, but it helps,” Esser said.
Producing one fewer paper a week gives the Oak Ridger staff more time to concentrate on their more localized mission.
“We looked at what our market was, and it was not to be a metro paper. It was to be a community paper,” Esser said. “We decided to get out of the national and international news business and be the best at local news . . . . That’s a niche we’ll leave the Knoxville News-Sentinel, CNN and the other TV stations.”
The paper also added several local correspondents and photo features, Esser said.
Along with the revamped Friday paper, the company added a total-market-coverage advertising package mail-ed to non-subscribers.
Market research and consulting were provided by Pulse Research Inc. of Portland, Ore.
? (Former Sunday Oak Ridger) [Photo and Caption]
? (New Friday weekend edition) [Photo and Caption]