Thursday, September 26, 2013

A return to times past

On Tuesday, the hometown newspaper, The Record, returned to the "broadsheet" format it had used in its earliest days, but had abandoned a number of years ago in favor of the "tabloid" format favored by the likes of the New York Post & Daily News, among others. A welcome return, perhaps a by-product of the paper's parent company deciding to shut down and tear down their ancient presses last month in favor of outsourcing the printing at rival Albany Times-Union's Colonie plant. That move was meant to save money. The change in formats makes perfect sense, since the T-U has always used the "broadsheet" format.

However, there are "cons" as well as "pros".

The biggest "pro" I can think of is the format change opens the door to adding new features and making the paper bigger in size without forcing a price increase, which would be the inevitable next step, since The Record has held the line at 75 cents an issue, Monday-Saturday, for the last several years, while their competitors are at $1 per issue. For now, though, it's also the thinnest of the three local dailies most days.

That says that the parent company may need to hire additional reporters to bolster the staff in the long term, or find extra wire service pieces that might be of interest to readers, material that isn't already appearing in the other papers.

One big "con" lies in the Sound-Off section, where callers are already complaining about the changes. The callers are usually seniors who don't understand the need for the changes. Others complain about the outsourcing of printing because it creates an earlier deadline that forces that night's sports scores to appear a day later than normal. For example, tonight's game summaries wouldn't appear until Saturday's issue, though the competitors would have it tomorrow. That's just a necessary evil as part of the transitional process. It's not fair to The Record's readers, but that's just the way it is. The parent company can't afford to buy a modern day press, and have scrimped on the paper's content, even in the "tabloid" format, the last few years.

The knock against the corporate parent in this case is that it's an out-of-state concern that doesn't know the demographic base it serves. The changes made these last few weeks are meant to benefit everyone concerned, but there will be the few who will pick up the phone and complain. For those whining about the lack of overnight sports scores, there's always YNN, one of the sports talk radio stations, or, if they have a computer, they can access their needs online. For the older readers already complaining about the print type, it will cost the parent company more money to enlarge the print. Maybe it'll happen, maybe not, but the senior demographic seems to be the one hit hardest by the changes.

To paraphrase Ricky Nelson, in his last hit record, "Garden Party", you can't please everyone.

No comments: