When you call The Tennessean and you are put on hold, you’ll hear a twangy jingle that repeats the refrain, “it’s my newspaper, bigger, and better.” These lyrics, which aren’t exactly Dylanesque in their subtlety, apparently are meant to assure the paper’s readers that while The Nashville Banner is long gone, their own product will continue to both grow and improve.
Well, not so fast. Starting perhaps as early as this coming August, sources both inside the paper and outside say that the paper won’t be bigger after all. In fact, it will be smaller, about 7 percent smaller. In a move that could potentially save the daily millions of dollars a year, The Tennessean plans to reduce its printing web size from 54 inches to 50 inches. That means every single page of The Tennessean would be about an inch narrower. Considering that newsprint costs are up to $600 a ton, that’s big-time savings.
Craig Moon, publisher and president of The Tennessean, says that the morning daily hasn’t yet made a decision to reduce their web size. “Are we leaning toward changing over to 50? We’re seriously looking at it, but there’s no official date.”
Other papers have also reduced their web size of late, including The Washington Post and The Denver Post. The reason is a no-brainer. While a smaller paper can be more reader-friendly, making it easier to carry around or skim at the bus stop, it also slashes costs. Papers that have reduced their web size typically report savings on newsprint, ink, and press expenses, according to Frank Balentine, press manager at the Newspaper Association of America.
“You’re saving four inches of newsprintthat’s a significant amount of money,” he says. “But what happens when they have another price increase (in newsprint)? Are you going to shrink it more? I’m not sure that’s the best way to fight that battle.”
Moon says that for The Tennessean, reducing its web size would not be a “cost-cutting move.” Rather, he says the morning daily is evaluating that option along with other design changes in order to improve the look of the paper. “If we took this (a smaller paper) to the focus groups, and readers in Middle Tennessee looked at a redesign, looked at a narrower web, and said, ‘This isn’t something we would read,’ certainly we wouldn’t make any changes.”
But industry professionals say that when a paper reduces its web size, it is thinking about the bottom line. “We wanted to reduce newsprint consumption,” says Merlin Klotz, plant controller for The Denver Post, which was one of the first daily newspapers to make the change. “Making it reader friendly was an afterthought. The dollars at stake are astronomical.” Talking about The Tennessean, Klotz says, “Considering that newsprint is 60 percent of your total costs, it’s safe to say they’ll save millions.”
Naturally, The Tennessean’s clients are interested in the paper’s plans. “Any advertiser needs to revisit their rates, and if they’re shortening their paper by 7 percent, that would go into re-negotiating ad rates,” says Ashley Caldwell, the media buyer for H.G. Hill Grocery stores. A local media buyer, however, counters that size isn’t all that matters: “We will look at any opportunity for us to gain better advantages for our clients. But if the content and demographic efficiency of The Tennessean improves, I don’t care what size it is.”
Oh, how nice it must be to call the shots. In a recent issue of Nashville Sports (formerly known as Sports Nashvilledon’t ask why), publisher Tom Squires allowed himself to be the subject of his paper’s own interview section. Staff writer and managing editor Jeff Duncan had the honor of interrogating his long-winded boss, who evidently thinks that he makes for a better interview than say, a member of the Predators, Kats, Titans, Sounds, whatever.
Last Wednesday, in teasing a news story on the dangers of using a cellular phone while driving, Channel 2 gravely labeled such behavior as “a potentially deadly epidemic.” Apparently, the guys in promotions didn’t read the script. When the well-researched story actually aired later that evening, reporter Wisdom Martin cited a recent crash report from the University of Oklahoma that found that in only one out of 26 accidents (that’s a paltry 3.8 percent if you’re keeping score at home) where a cell phone was in the car can the accident actually be attributed to cell phone use. Based on that study, driving with the overhead light on is probably more of a road hazard than anything Channel 2 reported.
In Review columnist Heather Nelson, who chronicles the local underground arts and entertainment scene, is now profiling musical acts for CitySearch as wellÉThe WLAC-1510 AM radio talk show Nashville Mornings (formerly Nashville Todaypeople, can’t we just pick a name and stick with it?) recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. During that time, the programnicely hosted by two-time Congressional candidate Steve Gill, former FM jock Terry Hopkins, and news reporter Kim Olsenhas aired an impressive gaggle of guests from White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and Cabinet Secretary Donna Shalala to singer/songwriter Kathy Mattea.
Matt Pulle, can be reached at 244-7989, ext. 445, or by e-mail at MPulle@nashvillescene.com.