'Arizona Republic' Launches New Sunday TV Book -- Adds 25-Cent Fee

By: Joe Strupp Faced with a $1.7 million annual loss on its Sunday TV book, The Arizona Republic of Phoenix had a choice: cut the book completely and save the money, or improve it and charge an extra fee to break even -- or possibly make some money.

Editor Randy Lovely opted to keep the weekly supplement, but he knew it had to be improved and altered to suit reader tastes. "We tried to find a solution to those readers who had a high interest in that product," Lovely said Tuesday, two days after the new TV book debuted. "We had to make it better."

He also had to charge an extra 25 cents to subscribers who wanted to get the new book. So far, some 40,000 of the 400,000 Sunday subscribers have opted to pay the extra fee, about 10,000 more than editors had expected.

"We think it could reach 50,000 copies when all is said and done, and when we get our seasonal readers back in the winter," Lovely added. "I am not surprised that some of our older readers would want it."

The changes date back to October 2008 when the Republic reduced its overall size from a 48-inch web to a 44-inch web. With that change the paper did market research on all areas of the print edition, including the Sunday paper. Lovely said that research revealed that only 40% of Sunday subscribers read the TV book.

He also said the TV book, which is outsourced for printing and has few ads, lost about $1.7 million per year: "We wanted to try to please that 40% as best we could, and not have it lose money."

The redesign effort was launched. Last spring, the paper came up with two prototypes to replace the previous 32-page version. Those included models that were 48 pages and 64 pages: Focus groups indicated they liked the 48-page model better, which also included more content, a glossy cover, a crossword puzzle and more updated listings. They also said most would pay up to 35 cents per week for the book.

"We settled on 25 cents after we looked at what it would cost us," Lovely said. The Republic then spent the past month promoting the change with house ads, a weekly Sunday full-page ad in the form of a letter from the editor and publisher, and a letter inside each of the previous four Sunday TV books.

Last Sunday, the new TV book appeared, but only for those subscribers who requested it and agreed to pay 25 cents more. Those who did not received the regular Sunday paper, which now has a one-day television listing for Sunday programs only.

Single-copy editions of the paper still include the previous 32-page TV book. Lovely said only about two dozen subscribers have cancelled their subscriptions because of the TV book change.


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