|For Chicago commuters, a return of the afternoon paper |
In the old days, afternoon papers were more urban, meaty and low-tech precursors of the 24-hour news cycle. A reader who was 9 years old during the attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, recently recalled in The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call, "In the weeks and months that followed, I rushed home from school to read headlines in the afternoon newspaper telling of the fall of Corregidor, the loss of Wake Island, the Bataan death march and other early defeats at the hands of the Japanese."
645 evening editions left
By 2005, there were 645 evening papers left in the U.S., down from 1,450 in 1950, and they represented just 15% of daily weekday circulation, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Most are smaller papers now, concerned primarily with very local issues, leaving the big stuff to the larger metro dailies that now dominate the business, said John Murray, VP-circulation marketing, NAA.
The Sun-Times' P.M. edition, available for printout at 4 p.m. Central Time, falls into the other bucket: afternoon papers in big metro areas designed to serve the commuter crowd. It is a free, downloadable, compact paper featuring news that broke during the day, sports, stocks, a crossword and -- this is the 21st century after all -- a daily Sudoku puzzle.
"This is really a resurrection of a project, or a way of doing business, that in some ways is a throwback to the past," said Fred Lebolt, VP-new media for the Sun-Times Media Group, formerly known as Hollinger International. "The economics of producing a print product in the evening or afternoon become pretty daunting. Now we're providing the same service in the afternoon via a new-media initiative."
Combining new and traditional media
"It's obviously another way for our advertising clients to reach our audience in a way that combines new media and traditional media," Mr. Lebolt said. "Secondly, it's an extension of our brand."
The paper's morning edition is also adding elements, including more color and graphics; a digital morning edition; and weekly two-page features on topics such as local transportation, health, travel, shopping and neighborhoods.