Wisconsin's Capital Times Drops Daily Print Edition For Online; '21st Century Paper'

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
Rather than continue the fade into print oblivion, the 90-year-old Capital Times is trying something as radical as its beginningsa complete switch to online for its daily newspaper. The Madison, Wis., afternoon newspaper, founded by William T. Evjue, published its last print edition Saturday, becoming, as its print editorial declared, "a daily newspaper of the sort Americans will know in the 21st century." The Cap Times, which had dropped to 16,000-plus in circulation for a high of 47,000 decades ago, hasn't gone off print completely: a free weekly "journal" with news and opinion and 77 Square, an entertainment guide, will be inserted in The Wisconsin State Journal. The morning paper has a circulation of 104,000, built in no small part of former Cap Times subscribersthose who trickled in over the years and those inherited in the switch. The two papers share revenues through a joint operating agreement but are independent editorially.

The newsroom staff has been cut by 20 or so to about 40 , including new hires in web productionthe site was redesigned in conjunction with the print closure. As the NYT points out, the web set-up not as clear cut as it might seem. The Cap Times and the State Journal actually jointly own portal Madison.com as part of the operating agreement, so the branding is not as clear as it would be in other situations. But the mission is clear: continuous news with an emphasis on local. The site will have breaking local news seven days a week, 18 hours a day, Editor Paul Fanlund told the State Journal.

Jay Rosen: "The presses have stopped but the press goes on. That's my headline. ... they aced the distribution part of the exam: new tabs inserted into the morning daily, the Wisconsin State Journal, which in turn gains circulation from the demise of the afternoon paper, putting the ex-afternoon paper's weeklies into way way more homes than the fading daily ever reached: 17,000 compared to 104,000 in the new arrangement. ... I know this isn't how they're thinking about it in Madison, but from my perspective Saturday marked the debut of a local newsblog and opinion site in Madison with an editorial staff of 40, and a web-to-print engine that is ready to start clicking. Those are basically good facts for the Cap Times. It's up to the staff to bring journalistic imagination equal to them." Jay has more on the paper's history and on the context in today's Madison.


By Staci D. Kramer