There will be some changes to the look and distribution of Ohio State’s student newspaper The Lantern this fall.
OSU signed a one-year contract this week with Media Network of Central Ohio, a subsidiary of Gannett Company Inc. that has managed The Lantern’s advertising and business operations since 2012.
As part of the terms of that new contract, which goes into effect Tuesday, The Lantern will be reducing its print frequency to two days per week, typically Mondays and Thursdays, with an additional Friday issue when there’s a football game scheduled at Ohio Stadium that weekend.
The Lantern, however,will continue to publish online content Monday through Friday each week of classes.
The Columbus Dispatch’s printing presses in Columbus will print The Lantern starting this fall as part of a deal between Gannett and The Dispatch, meaning the paper itself will shrink to 21-inches from 23-inches.
Nine-thousand copies will be distributed to about 300 on- and off-campus locations on the days The Lantern is printed, down from the 14,000 copies available of each print edition under the previous contract.
OSU will receive a total payment of $245,070 from MNCO as part of the contract, while MNCO will retain all advertising sales revenue.
Rick Szabrak, general manager for The Lantern business operations and MNCO territory sales director, said a decrease in advertising revenue contributed to the reduced number of print editions.
“It contributes to it for the immediacy of it,” he said, “but long-term, this is what all parties felt” was the right move. He also noted national advertising has fallen across the country.
Szabrak would not provide details about ad sales this past year or whether local ad sales were up or down, saying that Gannett doesn’t discuss detailed revenue performance of individual newspapers. He did comment more generally, though.
“Although some national advertisers may have adjusted their marketing efforts away from college newspapers, we are talking to more local businesses that see the value in reaching Ohio State students through The Lantern,” he said in an email.
Szabrak said the decision to decrease print copies was influenced by looking at the pickup rates.
“We thought we could be a little more strategic with where we (place) copies,” he said.
This is not the first time The Lantern’s print frequency has been reduced. Most recently, in 2009, the paper went from being printed Monday through Friday to being printed Monday through Thursday with occasional Friday editions.
Other college and professional papers across the country have made cutbacks to their print schedules as well. That includes the Daily Kent Stater, Kent State University’s student newspaper, which will print three times per week this coming year after previously printing five days each week.
The editorial side of The Lantern Media Group, which consists of The Lantern and BuckeyeTV, employs 22 students. The business side typically employs about 10 students, though it fluctuates. None of those positions are set to be cut as a result of the new contract, Szabrak said.
School of Communication director Daniel McDonald said the changes make for a good learning experience for the students involved with the paper, giving them the chance to focus on online and multimedia work.
“The trick is we’re investing more and more into sort of alternative formats, which is really the way the industry is kind of going,” McDonald said. “I wish things were the way they were five to 10 years ago, but that’s not going to happen.
“For the students, they’re going to have a lot more opportunities to interact with different (formats) … It’s going to make them more flexible.”
McDonald also noted that The Lantern’s newsroom in the Journalism Building is being renovated this summer to include a space for BuckeyeTV, which used to be based in the Drake Performance and Event Center.
Szabrak said it’s important to push online content, as there’s been a growth in web traffic over the last two years. During that time frame, he said he’s also noticed The Lantern breaking more stories online and posting more videos.
“On the business side, we have to make sure we align our advertisers with the readers and more of the readers are moving digital,” he said. “By evolving into more of a digital-first product, it’s going to be better for our students … It’s giving them the experience that is necessary in that industry.”