2 Dailies Owned by Freedom Newspapers to Run Weekly

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Freedom Newspapers, parent company of the Orange County Register, Thursday said it will turn two of its daily newspapers--the Anaheim Bulletin and the La Habra Daily Star-Progress--into weekly publications.

At the same time, the company said, it plans to eliminate its weekly community sections that run in the Register in Anaheim, Orange and Fullerton. It will replace them with stand-alone weekly newspapers beginning Aug. 5.

The Anaheim Bulletin and community Register will become one weekly paper. The Star-Progress is scheduled to be broken into two weekly publications: the La Habra Star and the Brea Progress.

The company said any staff reductions would be made through attrition.

"The point of doing this is to have the ability to have our advertisers reach their specific markets," said Mike Lednovich, director of corporate communications for Freedom Newspapers. He said the community Register concept was "not working."

The new weeklies will be delivered on Thursdays to about 85,000 Register subscribers in the affected areas, Lednovich said. They will also be delivered free to 120,000 other households.

Industry experts said the move should save money for Freedom Newspapers and could position the company to offer more targeted, less-expensive advertising.

"In terms of circulation, subscription rates and ad rates, linking up the Register with the weeklies could open up a lot of marketing possibilities" for Freedom Newspapers, said Robert Picard, a communications professor at Cal State Fullerton and editor of the Journal of Media Economics, a trade publication. "They are in a period of reorganization, no question."

John Motavalli, executive editor of Inside Media, another industry publication, said the two daily newspapers must clearly be marginal for Freedom to convert them to weeklies. "Daily is better for newspapers if you can sustain it," he said. "You can charge more for ads, and the paper becomes a real fixture."

Freedom Newspapers is a privately held company that also owns the Orange County NewsChannel, 24 other daily U.S. newspapers, 16 weeklies and five broadcast television stations.

The competition between the Register and the Orange County Edition of The Times is one of the most closely watched in the newspaper industry. Large metropolitan newspapers have watched their advertising base erode as retailers moved into the suburbs. Consequently, the suburban areas are where today's newspaper circulation battles are being waged.

Picard said the competition clearly played a hand in the changes Freedom announced Thursday. He perceives the changes as a marshaling of resources for the future.

"I haven't seen a dramatic shift of ad lineage between the two newspapers," he said. "I think they're positioning themselves for when the recession lifts" by paving the way now for some new marketing strategies.

While Freedom Newspapers said the changes would not result in layoffs, some members of the community Register editorial staff were told Wednesday their two-year positions would expire sooner than they had believed. Two reporters were given three months to look for new jobs, one source said. Four other reporters and an undetermined number of copy editors also would be affected.

However, Register Editor N. Christian Anderson said community news employees were only assured that they would not be let go during the newspaper's hiring freeze, which ended this spring. That resulted in several people's working beyond the usual two-year limit. "No community newsperson will be leaving the newspaper having been here less than two years," he said.

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