SAN FRANCISCO – With its circulation falling faster than any other major U.S. newspaper’s, the San Francisco Chronicle is determined to set the pace in a flashier way: It’s about to become the first general-interest daily to print its editions on high-quality glossy paper.
The new look, scheduled to debut in Monday’s newspaper, is part of the Chronicle’s effort to create a more visually appealing newspaper as more readers turn to the Internet for free information and entertainment.
Besides making the Chronicle more pleasing to read, the magazine-style glossy paper could help the newspaper attract more advertisers looking to make their products shine.
The Chronicle, the largest newspaper in technology-driven northern California, has been hard hit by the migration to the Internet. Its weekday circulation plunged nearly 26 percent from a year ago to an average of 251,782 during the April-September period, more than any other big-city newspaper in the United States.
The decline extended a pattern that has been unfolding throughout the decade. In 2001, the Chronicle’s weekday circulation stood at 527,000.
Despite the latest circulation losses, Chronicle management says the newspaper is in far better financial shape than it was last year when the publication lost about $50 million, prompting its owner, Hearst Corp., to threaten a sale or closure in February.
The turnaround since then has been driven by painful cost-cutting that eliminated hundreds of jobs this year and by higher newspaper prices.
The Chronicle now charges $7.75 per week for home delivery, up from $4.75 per week last year, and a $1 on the newsstand, up from 75 cents. That has helped offset some of the industrywide declines in advertising sales – still the main source of newspaper revenue even as readers are asked to foot a larger part of production costs.
The Chronicle is now making money in some weeks, something it rarely did in recent years, according to Mark Adkins, the newspaper’s president. The newspaper is taking advantage of its newfound prosperity by making improvements, such as the switch to a slightly thinner type of glossy paper than what is used in magazines.
The glossy paper will be used on the Chronicle’s front page as well as the first page of most other sections. It will also show up on some pages inside the newspaper.
Because glossy paper usually is more expensive than traditional newsprint, it’s unlikely the Chronicle would be making such a move without some advertisers already lined up to help foot the bill, said newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc.
The Chronicle confirmed it has secured some advertising commitments for the new glossy format, but it would not provide details or discuss the paper’s costs.