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Pioneer to slimdown for new year


   Just in time for the new year, a new, sleeker Pioneer will debut in a few weeks. The "new" Pioneer will be the size of the Oregonian, the Bulletin, and a large majority of the broadsheet papers in the state and nation.
   The Pioneer has been one of the last broadsheet newspapers still printing on a 25-inch web, which means our paper's width is 12.5 inches on both sides of the fold. But, we'll be moving to the 22-inch web in late December or early January, depending on when our company's press operating in Prineville runs out of 25-inch stock.
   The smaller size -- generally 1.5 inches slimmer on both sides of the side fold -- is a more modern and easier to handle product. While change always seems to take people aback, I'm sure the new size will rapidly become the new normal, and readers will hardly remember when it was, uh, fatter.
   Unfortunately for us, the slimdown isn't any cheaper to produce. In fact, the cost of newsprint is inching upwards. Plus, the cost of the paper is only one aspect of the cost of printing a newspaper (ink, press crew, inserting and mailing prep) -- none of which are getting any cheaper.
   We aren't the only business in our community struggling to survive in this economy, but we certainly are one of them. Like many we've had to cut employees, reduce operating hours, and find savings wherever we could.
   In light of that fact, the Pioneer is also having to increase the price of our newspaper. It soon will be moving to $1 from 75 cents. We've also moved our annual in-county subscription price from $25 to $35 a year. At $35, it equates to about 67 cents an issue.
   The price of a Pioneer at the store has been 75 cents since 2006. At $1, it's about the same price as a 32-ounce fountain pop and less than a candy bar. A good community newspaper is worth a buck.
   And with that, I've committed one of my own pet peeves about our industry. For some reason, we always seem compelled to write a story, such as this, to explain rate increases. Few other businesses do that. Grocery stores don't buy half-page ads proclaiming that beef has gone up this week, or car dealers noting that new rigs went up only $1,000 this year.
   All businesses love and depend upon their customers, and the need to explain rate increases is based on that sense of loyalty a business feels to its customers. We are no different. And I feel we're loved back. Even with all industry-changing dynamics of news consumption (and reading in general), we have maintained a strong relationship with our subscribers and the more than 1,000 people each week who pick up a Pioneer at a store or newspaper box.
   With a 3,773 weekly circulation, we have sustained substantially stronger numbers than have the Prineville (2,829) and Redmond (2,358) newspapers, both of which are excellent community publications and serve larger communities.
   While our distribution is higher, our ad rates are generally lower. Still, in a community with as little retail as Madras, getting advertising dollars is a tough chore. What's within the standard newspaper alone does not sustain our business. What keeps us afloat is our special publications, like our Sageland magazine, our phone book, and other publications and projects. Our company is also in the process of reworking our individual newspaper websites, many (including ours) to include paywalls. The revamped site is scheduled for late spring, and no longer will total access of our website be free.
   Change is not new to the Pioneer. For 109 years, we've adapted, and continue to do so, to changing economic and technological times. Through it all, our commitment to our readers -- covering Madras and Jefferson County's people, events and issues with more depth, precision and gusto than any other publication or entity -- remains stronger than ever. We'll continue to navigate the tough economy and changing landscape, continue to endeavor to create quality products, and hopefully stick around for another century or two.
   Very soon, we'll be thinner, but stronger at the core, with more names, photos and information -- and love for Madras and Jefferson County -- than ever before. If you have an idea that will help us be an even stronger newspaper, maybe an area you'd like to see more coverage or focus on, please give me, our editors, or ad staff a phone call or email -- or even one of those old-fashioned letter thingies. Our goal is simple: be the best newspaper we can be for you, our readers.