The definition of a newspaper is to tell the story of its community.
And, The Billings Gazette has been doing that since May 3, 1885. In a very real sense, part of the community’s story is The Gazette itself.
That story includes cataclysmic change in the past two decades as reading habits, shopping patterns and the economy has transformed. We can no longer take it as an article of faith that newspapers will simply exist because, you know, they printed yesterday.
We’re not the only business that is still experiencing rapid change. I am not just talking about the Internet. We’ve had a website at The Gazette for nearly 30 years, and our digital products and advertising continue to grow rapidly. A 30-year-old is no longer a kid, and a 30-year-old product is no longer a novelty.
Yet, the market and the speed at which it changes continues to be challenging and difficult. And, like any business, we’re responding to that change. That’s why we’re telling our readers about some change and why it’s necessary.
Beginning Monday, the print version of The Gazette will look – and be different.
Here are some of the changes:
As more of our readers spend more time with us online — to the tune of millions of page views a month — our daily printed paper will get smaller on some days. Currently, our website has more offerings than our print product. That’s been true for some time, but our printed product will be the best of what we have to offer, including local news, sports and advertising.
Our Health section will move to Monday.
Classified advertising will be featured online and in our popular replica e-edition, but the printed portion of the classified section will not be featured on Monday and Tuesday.
Our weekly entertainment section, “Enjoy!” which has been with us for nearly a half century will be moving inside the paper. This will give our staff more time to cover food, drink and entertainment articles.
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Our weekly television guide, which prints Friday, will replace the daily television schedule as more and more people use online services and scheduling, as well as streaming content services, such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.
The Gazette’s sports section will focus on more local content, and days when less local sports happens, usually Monday and Tuesday, our sports pages will reflect that. With the proliferation of so many sports services, we’re not going to dedicate as many staff resources to simply repeating what many already know. We’re going to devote more time to stories you haven’t heard and can’t get elsewhere. The daily sports section will do a better job of following the ebb and flow of the sports calendar. And, there's the robust digital offering, 406mtsports.com
In all these changes, we’ve decided to add back the daily stocks page. When we discontinued this service two years ago, we heard from you. And, we continue to hear that readers miss the daily recap and brief business news.
No longer do we have two different sets of readers, one in-print, the other digital. We realize that readers consume all the products, just in different ways. Our print product will continue to be a carefully curated edition of the best of local and national news, while the online will become an expanded version.
We fully understand these changes – like all changes – will not be loved by all readers. We also believe you need to know exactly what’s changing, and why.
We continue to see a surging online audience and more customers demand e-editions, digital access and online subscriptions.
That’s not the only thing changing, though.
Drive around Billings, take a look. Many large local advertisers are no longer in business. Names like Herbergers, ShopKo, Sears, Kmart, ToysRUs, Big Bear, and Sports Authority are all gone. Not just in Billings, but in nearly all markets. And, let anyone who has not purchased something from Amazon cast the first stone.
Advertising continues to change. Seventy percent of all advertising in America goes to Google or Facebook. And while The Billings Gazette, along with every other media, can be found on those platforms, we get precious little in the way of support for local journalism from them. Yell at me that you don't like the change, but the truth is: All media and businesses are immersed in a time of rapid change.
And that’s why your Gazette is rapidly changing.