We are repositioning the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2018.
The RTD is doing so to continue our commitment to producing an outstanding newspaper seven days a week, to further advance Richmond.com as the leading source for news and information online in the capital region, and to adjust to a challenging operating environment for printed media.
The continued disappearance of print advertising, now coupled with rising newsprint costs, will mean in 2018 we will have to do more with fewer resources.
Regional and national retailers that have historically been some of our best customers are spending less with us. Retailers have been disrupted by a shift to more online shopping. Others are merging or buying fewer ads in The Times-Dispatch. While we disagree with the decisions made by these advertisers, we must address the impact this is having on our business.
On Tuesday, for example, we eliminated 21 positions, including layoffs involving nine colleagues.
It pains us to take this action. Departing employees will receive severance commensurate with their years of service as a bridge to their next chapter. We wish them all well.
Cost cutting is making us work even harder to find alternative sources of revenue, including our emerging event business and digital subscription campaigns.
Developing additional new products and services that can attract new revenue will take time. To keep our newspaper strong in the meantime, we will again raise subscription prices and increase the newsstand price of The Times-Dispatch. In March, single-copy purchasers will pay $2 for a newspaper Monday through Saturday and $3 for the larger Sunday edition.
For our loyal longtime readers, here’s the abrupt change that interrupts what you have come to expect for many years: We are shifting from a predominantly advertising-supported business to an operation that relies more on subscription revenue.
That shift to higher subscription costs has occurred incrementally in the last few years and it will continue. Last year, I detailed the reasons for the increase in a letter that accompanied subscription bills. This year, my comments appear here but the reasons remain the same:
We’re getting fewer dollars from big-box and national retailers, our largest source of revenue. In addition, our classified advertising categories continue the shift to the digital marketplace where, despite having the top website in the region, we’re competing against online giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.
These challenges make us appreciate even more those advertisers who partner with us, and I urge every reader to support them as well.
The upshot is that it will be commonplace for many newspaper subscriptions to, in effect, cost at least $1 a day. Home delivery customers still will pay less than the newsstand price for a newspaper that comes to your home each day.
Rest assured, we are not increasing subscription prices to make more profits. We’re doing it to pay for excellent news reporting, products and services.
In March, you will see a revised format for your newspaper that places a stronger emphasis on local in the first section, confirming that our distinct coverage fulfills our mission to be Indispensable to our readers. We will continue to look for opportunities to expand coverage, just as we are doing while the Virginia General Assembly is in session with extra pages in the newspaper and a new daily email newsletter.
Because newspaper readers are curious about the world in general, the changes also will install a section devoted to important news from around the nation and globe that’s of relevance to Richmond. There will be some additional product improvements to your newspaper coming in early March, and we will detail these changes in the weeks ahead.
I often get emails, letters and messages saying, “I know you are in a tough business, but ...”
Yes, this has become a more difficult business to run in recent years, but so have others that have been disrupted or challenged by internet commerce. That’s our work to figure out. And we are working on sustainable solutions each day.
Our industry is going through a prolonged transformation. It is changing, not dying. We will continue to adapt to meet the expectations of a diverse readership and advertising customers. Our workforce still exceeds the equivalent of 435 positions in Richmond and at our Hanover production plant.
In the meantime, The Times-Dispatch is equipped to provide high-quality journalism at a time when fact-based reporting is as important as any point in our history. Our newsroom will continue to report stories that no competitor can match.
In 2018, our changes will reposition The Times-Dispatch so that we will be around for another 168 years.
We appreciate your support of local journalism and I thank you for reading and subscribing to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.