The Pilot Plans to Resume Daily Publication on Jan. 6

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There can be no more jokes about the near-Daily Pilot or the less-than-Daily Pilot. The newspaper, which in July reduced its publication to three days a week, has announced plans to resume a daily schedule on Jan. 6.

In a sign of returning health, Pilot publisher Jim Gressinger said the newspaper will begin publishing Monday through Saturday.

"Right from the time we went to three days, our goal was to go back to daily," Rodger Starkey, the paper's director of circulation, said Friday. "We all feel as though we were part of this."

The 68-year-old newspaper will call itself the Daily Pilot. In July, it dropped the name Orange Coast Daily Pilot in favor of the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa Pilot. But, Starkey said, the new name has not caught on.

The publication increase is a positive sign for the Pilot, said Ernie Vitucci, director of production planning and pre-press operations for the Los Angeles Times. "Usually, when papers drop from seven days a week to three days, it means they're in economic trouble," he said.

The Pilot has made several changes since July, including delivering free copies and eliminating all but local news about Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Its parent company sold off a Spanish-language weekly, Tu Mundo (Your World), Starkey said.

The changes coincide with the ascension of Gressinger to the role of publisher. His predecessor, Robert Page, was ousted in May after he sued his partners in Page Group Publishing Inc., owner of the Pilot and several other publications, including the Huntington Beach Independent.

Gressinger said in a front-page Pilot story on Dec. 21 that advertising revenue is up, an anomaly in the publishing business these days. "Despite the recession, our advertising has improved, and our readers have embraced our all-local news format," Gressinger told readers.

Starkey said he believes local merchants have responded positively to the paper's circulation technique, in which free newspapers are delivered to half the homes in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa for five weeks. Then, for the following five weeks, the newspaper is delivered to the other 35,000 homes in those two cities.

The Pilot also has 10,000 paid subscribers, Starkey said. In July, when it went to three days a week, the Pilot claimed a circulation of 16,000.

Starkey said the Pilot is hoping to attract more classified advertisers with the latest move, especially people selling cars or renting apartments, who often prefer daily publication.

The newspaper had previously published seven days a week, but Starkey said the Pilot opted against resuming a Sunday edition, partly because few newsstand copies were sold that day. Six-day publication is considered "daily" in the newspaper industry.

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