Switching to bigger papers every other week instead of weekly

After our experience in December with weekly newspaper delivery, we’ve realized this schedule isn’t feasible for The Portager. Starting this month, we’ll be sending The Portager out every other week instead. 

The papers will also be larger, with at least 12 pages of news, columns and obituaries in each issue to start out. Soon, our goal is to increase the size to at least 16 to 20 pages depending on ad sales.

The main reason for this change is the lag time we’ve seen for delivery from the post office. We’ve also seen extreme variability in the delivery day depending where people live around Portage County. In some cases, readers thought they weren’t on our mailing list only to discover a newspaper in their mailbox a week or more after the anticipated delivery date.

While this is disappointing, it’s hard to blame the U.S. Postal Service for this. They’ve suffered budget cuts, and they’re always swamped during the holidays. So some delay was expected. But even minimal delays of four or more business days (on top of the two full days needed for printing and mailhouse prep) is unacceptable for a weekly newspaper, which needs to offer some degree of timeliness.

We’ve assessed other options, such as hiring carriers to deliver the papers. But the cost is prohibitive, and most readers prefer mailbox delivery. While there are other methods that some larger papers use to reduce delivery delays, these are costly and labor-intensive.

Since we can’t do anything about the lag time, we’ve decided it’s better to adjust our publishing schedule rather than give you news that’s out of date. With the switch to every-other-week papers, we’ll focus on more in-depth news features alongside community updates from the past two weeks. We’ll also save on postage, meaning we’ll have more budget for news coverage.

I see this change as a net benefit for our community, but I understand some subscribers might be disappointed. That’s why we’re giving all Premium subscribers a two-week credit on your account. This will happen automatically, and there’s nothing you need to do. 

Additionally, if you subscribed to a Premium plan after Oct. 1, 2023, and you don’t like your every-other-week delivery, you can cancel your subscription for a full refund between now and Feb. 5. Just write to [email protected] to request your refund.

One of the cool things about running a news startup is that we get to invent new ways of doing old things. The Portager is going into print at a time other century-old newspapers are shutting down. So I’m not surprised about the learning curve, and I thank you for bearing with us while we sort out the kinks in real time.

If you have any questions or concerns, you know how to reach me. I wish you all a healthy and happy 2024!

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Ben Wolford is the editor and publisher of The Portager.

[email protected]