MediaNews Group’s ‘Digital-First’ Mondays Bring Some Paywalls Down

In the hopes of saving money while avoiding consolidation, MediaNews Group is introducing “digital-first Mondays” at six of its California newspapers. Of those papers, the three that have paywalls will make all web content free on Mondays, and print subscribers will no longer have to pay an additional cost for online access.

Three MNG papers are ceasing publication of their Monday print editions entirely: The Reporter (Vacaville), Times-Herald (Vallejo) and Times-Standard (Eureka) in Northern California. The Oakland Tribune, Argus (Fremont) and Daily Review (Hayward) have ceased home delivery of the Monday edition of their papers, though a print version will be available for street sale.

At The Reporter, Times-Herald and Times-Standard, the changes are effective December 19. Those three papers were among the 23 MediaNews titles that added metered paywalls, even for print subscribers, in August. Starting December 19, print subscribers will no longer pay an extra charge for online content. The paywall remains every day but Monday for non-print subscribers. “We do not want to limit traffic in any way on Mondays for those products,” John Paton, who became MediaNews Group CEO in September, told me. Print subscribers who currently pay for website access will be refunded the unused portion of their online subscription.

The Bay Area Oakland Tribune, Argus and Daily Review will cease publication of their Monday print editions on an unspecified date have already ceased home delivery of their Monday editions. Those three papers were among the eleven Bay Area titles slated to be consolidated into two, but Paton reversed that decision in October. “We are now keeping all titles and adding some digital-first initiatives,” he said–such as community media labs and enhanced website, as well as the digital-only Mondays.

When he took on his new role, Paton said he would reconsider paywalls across MediaNews Group. He told me he is still monitoring the metered paywall “experiment” at the company and has not yet decided whether all the paywalls will come down.

Click through to page 2 to see a letter to readers from Jim Gleim, VP for MNG’s Northern California group and and publisher of The Reporter and Vallejo Times-Herald.

Correction: An earlier edition of this article stated that all six newspapers are ceasing publication of their Monday editions; in fact, only three are. I apologize for the error.

Gleim’s letter to readers of the Vallejo Times-Herald and Reporter:

December 05, 2011

To our loyal readers, advertisers and distributors.

On Dec. 19, The Reporter [or Times-Herald] will eliminate Mondays from its print schedule, and move into an exciting combination of digital and print (Tuesday through Sunday) news delivery that is just beginning to take shape.

The decision to end Monday print editions, a step being taken by newspapers across the country, was made after evaluating the changing lifestyle preferences by most readers and how they consume their news. Readers are demanding that we provide our content in ways that suit those lifestyles.

To that end, in the last six months we launched news applications for various mobile smart phones and recently introduced a tablet app available on iStore. We’re underwriting these new initiatives by eliminating Monday print editions, the day of the week with the least advertising support.

Monday will remain an important part of our news delivery system in other ways, however. Although the print edition will be suspended, readers will continue to receive daily weekend coverage from the area’s largest news organization in three key ways:

1. Breaking news from Sunday will continue to be posted on — on Sunday.

2. Stories that normally would have appeared in Monday’s newspaper will appear on line both Sunday and Monday, as well as in the Tuesday print editions.

3. Also, many features that normally would appear on Mondays, such as daily crossword and other puzzles, as well as horoscopes and Sudoku, will find their way into our Sunday newspaper.

As far as news coverage goes, readers won’t miss a thing.

Beginning Dec. 19, subscribers will be provided free access to the paid content on our website, providing easy access to the breaking news that would have normally appeared in the Monday printed product, as well as every other day of the week. Those subscribers who currently pay for access to the website will be refunded the unused portion of their online subscription.

Thank you for your past and continued support.

Jim Gleim