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Digital first: Anniston Star print production goes to 3 days

Anniston Star building

The Anniston Star is making some big changes to better align its business model with customer demands. Beginning March 4, the print edition of the newspaper will be published three days each week — Wednesdays, Fridays and a Saturday/Sunday weekend edition that will be delivered on Saturdays.

Current print customers will have their subscriptions extended to receive the full number of papers you’ve already purchased.

Additionally, we will contract with local post offices to have postal carriers deliver subscribers' newspapers along with their daily mail.

On the other side of that same transformation coin, the changes in the print publication will allow The Star to invest more resources into providing even more local news coverage through our digital products, including our website and our mobile app.

The result of these changes will be heftier print newspapers and a more vibrant website.

OUR MOTIVATION

We believe journalism plays a vital role in the health of any community. Newspaper coverage is often the only access residents have to information about local government, local crime, local sports, local education and local events. That coverage empowers our subscribers to make informed decisions about their hometowns. Yet, more than 1,300 communities across the United States have lost all forms of local news coverage, according to a 2018 University of North Carolina study of news deserts.

We’re making these changes because we don’t want that to happen here. We want to continue bringing you the quality, award-winning journalism you’ve come to expect from The Anniston Star, and you’ve made clear how you prefer to receive it — digitally.

While subscriptions and advertising in our print publications has waned in recent years, the number of digital subscriptions to The Star’s website continues to rise. Since launching the latest version of our paywall three years ago, the number of subscribers reading our news online has more than doubled. Since July, our online-only subscriber base has risen by more than 60 percent. Thousands of you are paying to get the news from us online, and more of you are signing up every day. We get the message you're sending us, and we're responding.

THE GAINS

Under this new model, some of our print design editors will shift to writing stories, adding reporting power to our local news coverage. We’ll also be able to post news stories online more quickly, getting the news to readers even faster.

Our online presence is updated all day, every day of the workweek — Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays when there’s news. So, even on days when there’s no printed newspaper, the Star’s journalists are always hard at work, providing coverage of local news our readers don’t get anywhere else.

We’re also working to offer more kinds of stories online and in our mobile app in different formats, including videos, podcasts and email newsletters.

Digital platforms also provide the opportunity to be more interactive with you, our readers, through tools like social media, online polls and live discussions with columnists and local newsmakers.

THE LOSSES

In addition to Monday and Tuesday print editions, which we eliminated in 2011 and 2018, respectively, these changes will end production of Thursday newspapers and a pure Saturday print edition. You will still get coverage of Friday night football in the weekend edition, while game coverage of college football on Saturdays will be provided solely online.

These changes will also see the departure of many of our carriers. We’d like to publicly thank each of them for their long and tireless service, faithfully delivering the news to their neighbors. 

The newspaper delivery system, however, is one that has tried for more than a century — with varying degrees of success — to mimic what the U.S. government does so effectively and efficiently. Rather than duplicate that system, we’re going to take advantage of it. This change will all but guarantee effective home delivery of your newspaper.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Yes, this is going to feel very different — for you and for us. But, these are changes that newspapers all over the country have been making for almost a decade. It was our commitment to a storied tradition and the newspaper’s relationship with this community that has postponed these changes for years. I personally played a role in similar changes eight years ago when The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and The Mobile Press-Register transitioned to AL.com.

Also (and this is the more important factor), this is the direction readers’ habits are telling us readers want us to go in.

Make no mistake, these changes will make us a stronger, more vibrant, and growing media company.

We believe this community deserves nothing less.

Executive Editor Anthony Cook: 256-235-3540. On Twitter @AnthonyCook_DH.