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Daily Newspapers Go Dowdy

Three of Alabama’s major daily newspapers have announced plans to drop back to three-day-a-week print editions. Ricky Mathews, who serves as publisher for the Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and Huntsville Times, will now head a digital division of the regional Newhouse group, which also includes the New Orleans Times Picayune. The New Orleans paper also will cut to three days, after 175 years as a daily.

While Mathews says the news organization will focus more on digital coverage with up-to-the-minute reporting, the ownership also announced staff cutbacks.

In an interview with Business Alabama in January, Mathews said repeatedly that digital would not “eclipse” print any time soon, noting that even in the digital age, print readership has dropped only 15 percent.

“It’s interesting that some industry watchers were too focused on declaring the point when digital will eclipse print,” Mathews said in the January interview. “We don’t see that happening, when you look at print numbers and how many consumers still go to print.

“The Scarborough Report showed 50 percent of our audience get their information only from the printed newspaper, which is pretty significant,” Mathews said.

New to the media market, Warren Buffett questioned the change. The billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway, which bought 63 newspapers earlier this year, is quoted in the Miami Herald saying it’s the job of newspapers “to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town.” 

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