Readers may have noticed a change in the timing of our Web edition today. As of today, we’ve started publishing tomorrow’s print edition on the Web at roughly 4 pm the day before the print edition is distributed. (Email Edition subscribers have had early access to tomorrow’s edition for a few years.)
In the past, we waited to update the editorial until midnight. In other words, tomorrow’s print edition would go live at midnight tonight. (Breaking news has always gone online as soon as possible.)
There are a number of reasons for the change, but the simplest is that we have the news ready and done so we should publish it. I could use a lot of buzzwords to describe this philosophical strategic shift, but I can maybe best summarize this change with the phrase: “Uh, like, duh.”
Put another way, why didn’t we do this sooner?
The main reason for waiting is that I was concerned that publishing the news early on the Web would hurt print subscriptions. This is one of those callous, cautious, monetary decisions that publishers are forced to make (and which cause me no small amount of consternation, given that I’m neither callous nor cautious.)
However, over time, I’ve become convinced that we are best off publishing our news as quickly as possible — in every format possible — and not worrying about one format hurting another. Readers will choose the format that suits them best.
My best example of this is my 72-year-old father, who reads three newspapers every day, all in print. He will never, ever, read a paper online. Meanwhile, his 42-year-old son (aka, me) reads four newspapers every day, all online. The publishers of these papers make money off both of us. (See callous and monetary considerations, above.) They just make that money in different ways.
To my surprise, a part of what has convinced me to make this change has been the growth in the number of our Twitter followers. I don’t particularly like Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize it’s very obvious power to publish content widely, quickly and cheaply. We crossed 1,000 followers this week. We have nearly 800 fans on Facebook. And we’ve done very little to make this happen — little in the way of marketing those avenues, I should say. We have done one thing to promote Twitter and Facebook: We’ve produced many consistently interesting and smart articles about Memphis business, politics, and the issues in between.
There is one thing that will not change on our Web site, however: We continue to publish actual distinct editions of the paper online. If you look down the left side of the Web site, you’ll see links to every day’s edition of The Daily News. The links, if you follow them, go back years. Very few newspapers do this. Instead, they constantly update their home page with new articles, creating an ever-changing yet largely amorphous representation of the current news.
I understand why CNN does this. Breaking news is their schtick.
I don’t understand why The New York Times — and virtually every other newspaper in the country — does it.
Why? Because, since the first newspaper was published, I believe firmly that readers have reserved the right to stack up their newspapers — on their desk, their hearth, or their nightstand — and “get caught up” when they have time.
We make a point of offering you that option. If you miss a day, it is there for you, on the Web or in email, in it’s entirety.
So enjoy your news at 4 pm. I keep thinking there’s a name for a newspaper that publishes an edition every afternoon. It’s a radical idea, after all. I might even start calling us an “afternoon paper.” It’s kinda catchy, I think.
Eric Barnes, Publisher