Which makes me wonder: in the executive suites of America’s struggling metro newspapers, is anybody considering a combination of the Saturday and Sunday papers into a weekend edition distributed on Saturday morning? Some reasons to think about it:
1. Saturday is generally a pretty anemic paper, currently. It’s probably as thin as Monday and Tuesday in most markets. If the newspaper is losing money or performing marginally overall, then Saturday is a loser, but Sunday is a winner. Eliminating Saturday, but shifting the whole Sunday package to Saturday distribution, cuts out a ton of cost.
2. Sunday is generally not a newsy edition, anyway, since it usually gets put to bed early Saturday night. Sunday’s main news front delivers features and enterprise stories, rarely big breaking news. If big news does happen, most people are already going online for it, anyway.
3. Having the big weekend package on sale both Saturday and Sunday will boost single-copy sales in a big way—since Saturday is a big retail traffic day—especially if newspapers find new, non-traditional single copy outlets in the places shoppers congregate on Saturday. Back in the 1970s and 80s when a lot of papers converted from PM to AM, they discovered a similar effect: being on the newsstands all day long instead of just a few hours in the later afternoon boosted single-copy sales nicely. And weekend editions distributed on Saturday have worked well for a number of small, rural markets.
4. When the New York Times began allowing its suburban contractors to distribute the Sunday paper supplements and sections on Saturday, back in the 80s, I believe, reactions were positive—families have all weekend, not just Sunday, to peruse all that stuff. I assume this is done in other markets as well, these days. Consumers like it. But is anyone selling on the newsstands a package with all the Sunday innards on Saturday morning? Why not?
5. Isn’t the beefed-up Sunday a relic from the 6-day work week, when Sunday was the only day people had actual leisure time?
Juan Antonio, a firm believer in print, probably won’t agree that melding Saturday and Sunday into a weekend-long edition would be smart. But as more U. S. publishers contemplate the various “unthinkable” scenarios, this one could make a lot of sense and meet a generally positive consumer reaction. And perhaps it’s a reasonable first step toward the inevitable transformation of most newspapers to online news enterprises with limited-distribution weekly or bi-weekly print editions (or their demise and replacement by such enterprises).