To Please the 'Burbs, NYT Moves Up Deadlines

Today, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller informed the staff that deadlines will be moved up a half hour, beginning in January. Full memo is after the jump.

From: Bill Keller
Date: Nov 30, 2006 9:00 AM
Subject: To the Staff

To the Staff:

Come January we’ll be moving our evening deadlines a half-hour earlier.

Our circulation colleagues have argued that they’d be better able to retain existing customers (and get new ones at a lower cost) if they can guarantee that the paper will reach suburban subscribers’ doorsteps by 5:30 a.m. Of course, it is just as important for our readers to get late news in the paper. After a lot of study and splitting-of-differences, we think we’ve found a way to do a bit of both.

First, we’ll be moving all our evening deadlines 30 minutes earlier. This means the last pages of our two national editions will close at 9:30 and 11:30 and our city editions will close at 10:15, 11:30 and 12:30 (plus the goodnight postscript.) But there will be a twist: we will now put a ceiling on the number of papers that can be printed in those pre-midnight editions.

Historically our final edition, which closed at 1:15 a.m. was only received by at most 125,000 readers. This change means there will be between 335,000 and 385,000 copies printed after 12:30 pm, which makes up more than half of the total New York print order. Most of our readers in Manhattan and the boroughs will get a later paper than they’ve been getting.

We know there are many scheduled news events that do not fit into this new second-edition schedule. We’ve agreed that on those nights (such as during the State of the Union speech, on election nights, during the World Series, etc.) we can and will request later deadlines in advance.

And, as always, when major news breaks late in the evening,we will slow or stop the presses to get the news into as many papers as we can. Both the News Desk and our Production colleagues have lots of practice at that.

I don’t want to kid you. We think later deadlines make better newspapers. That’s why we pushed so hard for later closes throughout the nineties.(For the record, the new first city close of 10:15 still compares favorably with the 9:45 close we enforced a decade ago, and the 9 p.m. deadline in effect 15 years ago. And in those days readers did not have the option of checking our website for updates.) We think this is a compromise that minimizes the impact on timeliness of the printed paper, and actually means later news for many of our most loyal readers. And it’s money that will not have to come from cuts that would impair our ability to cover the news.

Bill