The email this past week had the subject line “So Thin!” Has someone seen me working out at the gym? Was it one of those inbox come-ons that you always get in the new year to “start a new you”? Fat chance.
This email came from a careful reader wondering what’s been going on with the past few Wednesday issues of The Pilot.
“Several of us have noticed that The Pilot is very thin these days,” this reader said. “Meaning not only are there very few pages, there is less content. We are used to The Pilot as four sections. The Wednesday issue had only an A and a B.
“Much of the paper is taken up with obligatory topics, such as Obituaries, Clubs, Calendar, Puzzles and Religion. We appreciate the information on these recurring topics, but what we rely on The Pilot for is our local news!!
“Why is this happening?”
In a word — January.
The Pilot, like most publications, sees a substantial drop-off in advertising from its various clients this time of year. Many businesses, recovering from the busy holiday season and seeing their own reduced sales, cut back on marketing budgets significantly in the first quarter of a new year, but especially in January.
January is not only a slow time for advertising; it’s also a slower time in the life of our community. We just don’t have as much going on in the first several weeks of the new year as we do going into spring or summer.
As each new issue of The Pilot approaches, I work with our page design team to make the best use of space across all the sections. How much space do we need for ads? For news? For our regular features and listings?
In addition to all that, we’re also trying to make the best use of our resources and budget. This time of year, keeping the paper at its usual size of 32 or 36 pages across four sections can be wasteful, especially if we don’t have enough going on to fill up that amount of space.
With all that in mind, we’ve spent the last few Wednesday editions running two sections instead of the regular four. Section A has included news, business stories, Opinion and Sports. Section B has included Scene and classified advertising.
Yes, the content has been paired down a bit, but not much. We’re not leaving much out, whether it be news or Community Calendar listings. This past Wednesday, each of the two sections was 12 pages, meaning that the paper was only four pages smaller than normal. We’ve kept Sunday at four sections because we’ve had a bit more advertising to warrant the larger size.
This is not new for us. The last few years, we spent January in a similar cycle.
How long will we keep doing two sections? It’s hard to say at this point. We’ll see how things are looking at the end of the month. Things usually pick up in February, but we’re also trying to manage our resources wisely. The four sections are a neat organizational layout for The Pilot, but they just don’t make sense if we don’t have the content to consistently fill that many pages.
In the meantime, we’re still covering the local news, still getting your community events and listings in, still offering timely and local commentary.
Thin in the new year? We prefer to think of it as us working on our core strength.
Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.