Big Changes Coming for the St. Petersburg Times on May 19
That's when the paper will implement changes designed to emphasize material readers have told us they value most in the weekday paper and bring down costs. The big changes: Floridian, our daily features section, will publish just on Sundays, while our business section will merge with our B section metro news in a new section. TV listings, comics, Dear Abby, crossword puzzles and the more popular syndicated elements of our features section will move to a new section called BayLink.
As always, when circumstances compel the Times to reimagine the newspaper, executives have tried to husband resources while emphasizing elements readers will like in new ways. So there are new features added to the Taste section -- including a weekly restaurant review -- a return of the color weather map, four new comics and the move of our daily entertainment report, The Juice, to the inside front page of our A section, among other changes. The Sunday paper, where much of our readership's attention falls, will change little.
Leaders here are hoping BayLink -- which combines classifieds, syndicated features and news content in a section they're imagining as newspaper's closest thing to a shopping mall -- will be seen an innovative effort at collecting material readers want in one section.
Among the big elements which will disappear: traditional stock listings (some will be available in a new format; many papers have eliminated them, because the information is so readily available online), the Road Test column, the Parenting column (though more parenting coverage is planned, both online and for the paper), the Working section and the Sew Simple feature.
There will also be a half-page in Sunday Floridian featuring much of the material featured in this space, called, surprisingly enough, The Feed.
Top staffers at the paper have been working on these changes for months, with an eye toward creating a more streamlined paper during the week, eliminating material readers may not value so much, and, in the midst of a serious recession, cutting costs. It is the second time we've redesigned the paper since 2006 -- coming close on the heels of the Tampa Tribune's reconfiguration in March -- and the open question is always how will readers react to paying the same price for a smaller product?
Our executive editor Neil Brown will introduce readers to these changes with a column on Sunday, and there will be stories in the paper each day next week outlining how each section will change and where people can find the material they've come to enjoy.
It's a tough spot for a media critic to negotiate; I'm not an ombudsman with a contract guaranteeing employment no matter what I write, so I've tried to respect the organization's need to plan while pulling together this blog post to give anyone who reads this space early notice on the coming changes.
I've written before in this space about how the Times' business model ensuring our independence -- the fact that we're owned by a non-profit, the Poynter Institute -- has given us a bit more time to deal with the financial forces that are dramatically transforming other newspapers. But we're not insulated from the pressure, and these changes are evidence of that fact.
Looks like we're all stepping into a new era together, starting May 19.