Lufkin Daily News adjusts print frequency to navigate COVID economy | Coronavirus / COVID-19

The Lufkin Daily News will change its business model in response to the historical effect COVID-19 is having on the local, state and national economies, and the broader newspaper industry as well, company officials announced Thursday.

On April 15, The Daily News will begin a three-day-a-week publishing schedule with an expanded Sunday edition and a new focus on digital news coverage and features, company leaders said.

Print editions of The Lufkin Daily News, serving the community since 1907, will be distributed to subscribers and single-copy readers Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The larger Sunday edition will appear Saturdays. Charm, the newspaper’s glossy magazine, will continue to be delivered in the last Friday of the month editions of the newspaper.

The Lufkin Daily News will continue to publish local news daily through its digital edition,

“Like most businesses in our community, we did not anticipate having to make such changes before COVID-19 arrived and dramatically disrupted our lives,” said Keven Todd, publisher of The Lufkin Daily News.

“The Lufkin Daily News is much like any other small business,” Todd said. “Our business model relies on revenues generated from local advertising and subscriptions.”

Roughly 70% of the newspaper’s revenue comes from the advertising of primarily local businesses; the balance is from subscriptions and other products and services.

“A good community newspaper’s health is generally a direct reflection of a local economy,” Todd said.

“Unfortunately, this is not business-as-usual for so many of our local advertisers in this community — and by direct relationship, certainly not for us either.”

The decision to change print frequency did not come easily for the newspaper.

“We made this decisive change to our operating model to be able to navigate through this punishing economic tunnel,” Todd said.

“Doing nothing is not an option. We intend to serve this community for the long term.”

The announcement comes at a time when the U.S. newspaper industry, which already was facing headwinds, is being especially hard hit by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and response to that.

Publishers and newspaper companies across the nation are taking similar steps to cut costs and increase efficiency as they work to develop new sources of revenue and continue to serve their readers in a time of global crisis, Todd said.

The new production schedule will allow The Lufkin Daily News to reduce newsprint and distribution expenses and help it preserve employees, he said.

“Generating quality local news is neither free nor inexpensive,” Todd said. “Our employees get paid like any others and enjoy good benefits. They live and shop locally and are vital members of our communities.

“We want to take whatever steps we reasonably can to keep them on the job and serving our readers.”

The Lufkin Daily News recently brought home several awards for both the newspaper and Charm from the Texas Press Association’s annual meeting. The newspaper also was recognized with 14 awards from the North & East Texas Press Association’s annual contest.

The Lufkin Daily News has an incredibly rich history serving Lufkin and Angelina County for well over a century. The newspaper is locally managed and independently owned and operated by Texas-based Southern Newspapers.

“We’ve changed over our 114 years to adapt with the times,’’ managing editor Jeff Pownall said. ‘‘We were one of the first newspapers in the country to begin using Macintosh computers to digitally paginate our pages; we were a beta site for that in the late 1980s. And in 1996, we made the switch from an afternoon newspaper to a morning paper.

‘‘But what hasn’t changed over all those years is our commitment to this community. We’ve been the go-to source for stories and information — both joyous and heartbreaking — for years. That’s not going to change.

‘‘And that’s what makes this all the more exciting. Our competitive position has never been stronger. We’re adapting to better serve today’s readers.”

This isn’t all an exercise in subtraction, Todd explained. Instead, the newspaper is looking to add value for its readers and advertisers.

“On average — even before the pandemic crisis — about 70-80% of visitors to access the site via mobile device, so we are in the process of developing a mobile app that will greatly enhance the user experience,” Todd said. “We hope to have that rolled out early in May, which will make it much easier for readers to access the latest news and information with the app on their phones.”

Also coming up May 10, the newspaper will add Parade magazine to its Sunday lineup. “Parade is one of those iconic American brands that’s been a staple in Sunday newspapers from coast to coast for many years. We’re looking forward to bringing this to our readers every week as part of the Sunday package.

“We are not going anywhere,” Todd said.

“And with the help of our subscribers and local advertisers, we will continue to deliver the best local journalism for this region both online and in print.”

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