By: Joe Strupp
Columbian switches to a.m., due to higher circulation
The Vancouver, Wash., Columbian will add a Saturday edition in July and switch from afternoon to morning delivery next year, according to publisher Scott Campbell, who says the changes will create about 20 new jobs but will likely put more than 800 youth carriers out of work.
The announcement comes just weeks after The Seattle Times reported a switch to a.m. delivery by 2001, a change that could mean the loss of at least 3,000 youth delivery jobs.
Both moves continue a recent trend of more newspapers going to morning delivery, with a corresponding reduction in youth carrier jobs nationwide.
Campbell, the third-generation publisher of the family-owned Columbian, says the additional Saturday edition and new morning schedule are necessary to handle rising circulation in recent years prompted by a population boom in the area. “It’s another opportunity to serve readers; people want a newspaper seven days a week,” says Campbell. “Mornings have become a more logical spot for a paper as it grows. It gives us an edge to assemble news when people are asleep.”
Campbell says the paper will begin the Saturday edition on July 10 and switch to morning delivery sometime in the summer of 2000. He says the changes were prompted by the newspaper’s rising daily circulation, which went from 47,500 in 1990 to 55,000 today. The increase is tied to a population rise in Clark County, the newspaper’s chief coverage area, which jumped from 150,000 in 1990 to 330,000 this year, Campbell says.
Campbell says the switch to a morning edition will likely mean an end to most of the newspaper’s 850 youth carrier jobs because the delivery deadline will be either 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. “I think it will be tough to keep kids on routes, but we will try,” Campbell says. “Our delivery deadline is driven by research, and it shows that the community is out and about early.”
The likely loss of youth carriers at the Columbian follows a sharp decline in youth carrier jobs since 1990. The National Newspaper Association, which tracks such figures, reports that the number of youth newspaper carriers dropped from 373,269 in 1990 to 282,601 in 1992 and 206,136 in 1996, the last year for which statistics are available. New figures are expected to be released later this year.
Columbian circulation director Marc Dailey says some families of youth carriers have asked to be able to help their youngsters continue through the early delivery, but he admits that such a situation will likely not work for most of the carriers.
Dailey says the switch to mornings is not a response to a similar move by The Seattle Times, which is located about 100 miles north and circulates in Clark County with single-copy sales. But Dailey admits that a morning paper will better compete with the Seattle papers and the Portland Oregonian, which is based just six miles from Vancouver.
Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen says he would like to make his newspaper’s morning switch before the end of 1999 but says plans are still in place to do it “some time in the next two years.”
“From a practical standpoint, we will have more adults, but we may retain some of the youth,” Dailey says. “The goal is to have the change invisible to the public as far as service is concerned.”
Dailey says the Saturday edition will begin with a 6 a.m. delivery deadline, while Sunday delivery, which is currently guaranteed by 7:30 a.m., may also be moved earlier. He says many youngsters who lose delivery jobs will be offered to work in subscription sales.
Right now, the youth carriers earn about $2.25 per month, per customer, says Dailey, who says most of the carriers serve about 65 customers. He says the change to adult carriers could drive up the delivery costs by as much as 30% but would not provide specific cost hikes and says no subscription or single-copy price increases are planned.
Since 1975, about 62 papers have gone from afternoon to morning delivery, with nearly half making the change since 1997, according to the Editor & Publisher International Year Book. During the same time period, fewer than five papers have switched from morning to afternoon delivery.
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?(Copyright: Editor & Publisher April 10,1999) [Caption]