The publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press has announced that it’s investing millions of dollars in a plan to convert the newspaper’s print subscribers to a mostly digital format. The newspaper publisher has bought thousands of Apple iPads to give to subscribers.
Delivery of a physical newspaper will cease by mid-2022 with the exception of the Sunday edition. Having been a newspaper editor early in my career, it’s always sad to hear the demise of a print edition. But I suspect the Free Press is just the first such newspaper to make this move. (And I find it especially interesting as I have family in Chattanooga and the city isn’t that far away from where I live in Nashville, TN.)
Starting Monday, the newspaper will begin converting daily print subscribers to a replica of the daily newspaper available on the tablet. The replica — which purportedly looks exactly like the print paper but has some additional features and functionality — will be available every day, usually by 4 a.m. The print edition will also be delivered on Sundays.
The digital conversion is necessary for the newspaper to remain profitable and continue to serve the Chattanooga area with quality local journalism, said Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher of the Times Free Press and chairman of WEHCO Media Inc.
“If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t be able to continue to publish the kind of paper we publish in Chattanooga,” Hussman said. “We wouldn’t be able to cover as many meetings. We wouldn’t be able to serve as the watchdog function we serve as a vital journalistic Fourth Estate institution. For us to do this, we can keep our newsroom basically intact. It’s the way for us to maintain good, quality journalism and fulfill our function.”
Hussman said he chose to cut the cost of printing and distributing the paper rather than reducing the size of the news staff or the number of pages in the paper.