With Final Conversion Thursday, Century Group Papers Go All-Tabloid

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

When the weekly Yucaipa (Calif.) News Mirror hits the streets on Thursday, Nov. 18, the 10-paper Century Group will become one of the first U.S. chains to convert completely from broadsheet to the tabloid format.

Century Group President Jerry Bean said the conversion began about a year ago with the company’s three Los Angeles-area weeklies and then spread to its seven papers in the state’s so-called Inland Empire around Riverside.

Convincing advertisers to go along with the format change has not been a problem, Bean told E&P in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“From an advertising standpoint, it’s really no different,” he said. “We were on an SAU (standard advertising unit) format before, and we’re on an SAU format now. The only advertisers it would affect are those who run full pages, and we didn’t get that many full-page broadsheet advertisers anyway.”

Ad rates have remained the same, he said.

Bean said the paper has heard a few negative comments from big advertising agencies that still think the tabloid format is associated with a lesser quality newspaper. “But most of our advertisers are local or regional, so we haven’t been faced with that,” he said.

For its Inland papers, Century Group went to a longer tab format that’s 15 inches in length, to avoid the square look of the typical 12 1/2-inch tab that comes off a 50-inch web width, Bean said. “It also makes the paper seem bigger and more substantial,” he said. As broadsheets, the papers typically ran 24 to 30 pages. As tabs they run 44 to 56 pages.

One other advantage: 15 inches is as long as a paper can get before the U.S. Postal Service requires it to be folded, something Century Group wanted to avoid. The Inland papers, with a total distribution of 114,000, are distributed through a combination of mail and carrier delivery.

The Los Angeles papers, which total about 25,000 copies, are printed in an even longer 17-inch tab, Bean said.

All the papers are voluntary paid, and the chain is hoping the tabloid format will move the pay rate up from the current 15% of households.

“Reader reaction has just been tremendous – – readers love tabs,” Bean said. The tabloid format helps organize and compartmentalize news and advertising better, he said.

With each conversion, Century Group has added new content, Bean said. At the Yucaipa News Mirror, for instance, there will be more sports coverage, a three- to four-page feature section for senior citizens called “Ageless,” an expanded op-ed hole, and a new educational section.

“We never undergo a change without giving people more,” Bean said.

In addition to the Yucaipa paper, Century Group properties include the Record Gazette in Banning, which converted last month; the Fontana Herald News; the Highland Community News; The Valley Chronicle in Hemet; the La Canada Valley Sun and the Crescenta Valley Sun.

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