McClatchy Says So Long to Saturday (Print) Newspapers

Subscribers to The Miami Herald, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Charlotte Observer will no longer find a newspaper at the end of their driveway on Saturday mornings.

McClatchy, a newspaper chain with more than 30 publications in 14 states, said on Wednesday that it planned to eliminate Saturday print issues at all its daily newspapers by the end of 2020, though a new slate of articles will continue to appear digitally.

Craig Forman, the chief executive of the publicly owned publisher, announced the decision during a call with investors to discuss third-quarter earnings. He added that what he called “digital Saturdays” were already underway at four McClatchy papers: The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; The Bellingham Herald in Bellingham, Wash.; The Durham Herald Sun in Durham, N.C.; and The Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.

“In those markets where implementation has occurred, we are seeing an accelerated conversion to our digital products,” Mr. Forman said. “We expect to expand digital Saturdays to all of our markets during the course of 2020 as we advance toward our digital future.”

The move is substantial for a company with the fifth-largest newspaper circulation in the United States, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina.

Newspaper publishers have faced financial difficulties as their customers increasingly prefer to read the news on their laptops, tablets and smartphones. Digital advertising revenue has fallen far short of the money brought in by print ads, and many companies have tried to make up the difference by charging readers for online access.

McClatchy has been under pressure since not long after it acquired a rival newspaper chain, Knight-Ridder, for $4.5 billion in 2006. That was before the recession and the rise of digital media combined to weaken the newspaper business. The move to digital Saturdays, Mr. Forman said, may encourage digital subscriptions.

McClatchy noted on Wednesday that circulation revenue in the third quarter had exceeded advertising revenue for the first time in the company’s history — which goes back to the founding of The Sacramento Bee (as The Daily Bee) in 1857. Digital-only subscriptions grew nearly 50 percent from the equivalent period a year earlier.

But that was one of few bright spots in the report. McClatchy reported a net loss of $304.7 million during the quarter and warned that the Internal Revenue Service had declined to grant a waiver that would have permitted the company to avoid making minimum contributions to its pension plan. A $124 million contribution due next year “creates a significant liquidity challenge,” the company said.

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