By: Lauren Wiener
They’ve shared Fairfield County for more than 125 years, but The Hour feels the time is right to challenge its neighboring paper, The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate.
Located fewer than 10 miles from each other, the two papers have served the editorial and advertising needs of their respective towns — until now. The Hour, a Norwalk-based 16,841-circulation daily run by the Nellie M. Thomas trust, will launch The Stamford Times, a weekly set to compete with the Advocate, a Tribune Co. daily with 26,850 weekday circulation. The first issue is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17.
The new weekly will focus solely on Stamford-related news, said Hour and Times Publisher Chet Valiante, as opposed to the daily Advocate, which, he noted, also covers neighboring towns. “We want to get input from readers and community organizations,” said Valiante. “We’ll have contributory stories from members of the community, so it’s from the people.”
The Hour will continue to publish its daily Stamford edition along with the new weekly. Valiante said in a release that advertiser and reader response to the Times “has exceeded our expectations,” but the Advocate is hardly sweating about its new rival.
“Stamford readership is a sophisticated readership that appreciates high-quality local newspaper coverage,” said Advocate CEO and Publisher Durham J. Monsma. “I have a hard time picturing them providing that with a weekly. It seems they are trying to satisfy their advertisers more than potential readers.” The Advocate has no present plans to counter its new competitor.
While a press release said the Times “will focus its distribution in high demographic, residential ZIPs where the local daily’s penetration is lower than desired by many advertisers,” Monsma begged to differ.
“That’s probably our strongest area of distribution,” he noted, hypothesizing that the success of the Advocate‘s growing Norwalk edition could be behind the Times launch. “They’re just trying to put a stick in our eye out in Stamford.”
Valiante disputed the Advocate‘s Norwalk circulation gains and cited the unmet needs of readers and advertisers for the Times‘ launch. “We will be serving a niche opportunity in a market that’s underserved,” he said, noting all other nearby towns have both daily and weekly papers. Specifically, he hopes to meet the advertising needs of smaller businesses, which may not be able to afford to advertise in the Advocate.
Monsma welcomes the competition, adding that other weeklies have tried — and failed — to publish in Stamford. “One of the great things about this area is its wide variety of newspaper voices,” he said. “To the extent that they want to offer one more, we welcome the opportunity to compete.”