Ore. newspaper reduces home-delivery schedule

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregonian announced Thursday it is shifting its emphasis to digital delivery of news, reducing home delivery and cutting some staff, following in the strategy of other Advance Publication Inc. newspapers, including The Plain Dealer and The Times-Picayune.

Oregon’s largest newspaper will still be printed daily and distributed to metro areas. But home delivery will be reduced from seven days to Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and a bonus edition on Saturday. Home delivery subscribers will be able to read a digital edition of the paper online seven days a week.

Publisher N. Christian Anderson III said in a statement published online that the company will be relaunched Oct. 1 as the Oregonian Media Group.

“We will continue to develop our digital products to better serve consumers,” Anderson said. “We seek to be at the forefront of how Oregonians get and use information. Even with the largest news organization and the largest news audience in the state, we must bring innovative ways of serving consumers to continue our growth.”

The Oregonian — whose roots date back to 1850 — is owned by Advance Publications, Inc. Similar steps have been taken at other Advance newspapers.

Advance’s strategy of shifting to digital content began in 2009, when the Ann Arbor News switched from a daily print schedule to printing only on Thursday and Sunday. In New Orleans, The Times-Picayune cut its print edition to three days a week and later supplemented that with a tabloid edition available in stores and newsstands on the days that the full newspaper isn’t printed.

Known nationally as a source of experimental and long-form narrative journalism, The Oregonian enjoyed more than a decade of sustained success, including the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and four others, most recently in 2007 for breaking news.

Anderson said employees would begin to hear Thursday about their status with the company.

“While we believe these changes will create growth opportunities for our employees,” Anderson said, “the reality is that some employees will lose their jobs.”

Subscribers will be told about new rates in August.

The Oregonian’s shift comes as a growing number of people get their news online, turning away from traditional newspapers. The shift has cost newspaper companies print advertising dollars, the lifeblood of the industry, and digital revenue has so far failed to keep pace with the loss of print ads.

The Oregonian is not alone in the Portland newspaper market, and it was not clear how the changes announced on Thursday will affect the other papers — which include the alternative Willamette Week and The Portland Tribune, also a weekly.

In an online statement, The Oregonian said the Oregonian Media Group will “provide up-to-the-minute news and information, when and where readers want it,” and that “new and improved digital products” will be introduced.

In addition to the creation of the Oregonian Media Group, another new entity will be formed — Advance Central Services Oregon. The latter will provide “human resources, production, circulation, information systems and technology, strategic sourcing and accounting to Oregonian Media Group and other companies,” the newspaper said in an FAQ posted online.

The paper announced that Anderson will become president of Oregonian Media Group; Peter Bhatia, now vice president and editor of The Oregonian, will be vice president of content for the new company; Barbara Swanson, vice president of sales of The Oregonian, and Hallie Janssen, vice president of marketing at the paper, will have the same roles for the Oregonian Media Group.

The impending staff cuts go hand-in-hand with what’s happened at other company holdings, said Columbia Journalism Review reporter Ryan Chittum, who has written critically of the Advance strategy.

“It’s hard to call it an investment when you’re slashing your newsroom,” Chittum said. “For it to be a successful strategy, the online revenue would probably have to go up five or six times. We’re at least 20 years into the Web era, you’re not going to get that type of growth.”

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Reach reporter Nigel Duara on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nigelduara

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