WILLMAR — My first job as a kid growing up in Clara City was delivering the Minneapolis Tribune. I covered the south side of town in the late 1960s with their morning edition. Nearly every home in the town subscribed to the West Central Tribune or the Minneapolis morning or afternoon newspapers.

So I was familiar with newspapers when I began my career in 1981 at the West Central Tribune. But much has changed in the past 39 years since then in how the news is delivered and consumed.

Steve Ammermann is the publisher of the West Central Tribune in Willmar. He has worked at the newspaper since 1981, first as business manager, then general manager and publisher since 2000.

Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune photo
Steve Ammermann is the publisher of the West Central Tribune in Willmar. He has worked at the newspaper since 1981, first as business manager, then general manager and publisher since 2000. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune photo

In 1997, our newspaper launched wctrib.com, our newspaper website. And in 2003, we launched our electronic edition, which is a digital version of our print edition. In recent years, we have launched daily and topical newsletters delivered right to our readers’ email boxes and we share content via Facebook and Twitter.

Through those two decades, the technology we use to produce our content and the technology our readers use to consume our content has evolved. Through the 2000s, the mobile phone industry flourished, and in the 2010 decade, 4G mobile networks became readily available throughout the region.

Thus, our subscribers’ reading habits have also evolved with technology’s advancements. More readers every year are consuming their daily news from our website or e-editions. With the advent of 5G mobile, here in 2020 more Tribune subscribers are reading their content via their mobile devices — mobile phones and tablets — than ever before.

Throughout recent decades, our dedicated West Central Tribune staff members have strived to provide the best newspaper product, full of news and advertising for readers and advertisers in our west central Minnesota communities.

However, a daily newspaper is expensive to produce and deliver to your household. It only works financially when there is a strong combination of print subscribers and print advertising.

Print advertising and subscriptions have been declining for years, while digital readership continues to grow monthly. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has accelerated the advertising decline, greatly changing the economics of the newspaper’s print edition.

In early April, the West Central Tribune reduced the number of daily pages printed and stopped printing our C sections on Thursday and Saturdays in order to reduce costs while continuing to deliver news to our communities during this COVID-19 pandemic. We had hoped this difficult decision would be the only change needed. Sadly, it wasn’t.

Due to the pandemic’s negative economic impact on our local economy and the corresponding stress on our business, the West Central Tribune is announcing today it is moving to a two-day print frequency — Wednesday and Saturday — effective Wednesday, July 8.

On the same day, our newspaper’s distribution will move from carrier delivery to mail delivery of the print edition, which for many will mean a different delivery time those two days. Unfortunately, this delivery change means the West Central Tribune’s independent carrier force will be eliminated.

Here are the positive outcomes of our coming changes.

The new Wednesday and Saturday print editions will be filled with all the news, features, sports and advertising that our print readers value.

The West Central Tribune’s e-paper, an electronic replica of the daily newspaper, will still be produced seven days a week and is free for all subscribers to access via wctrib.com. Many readers who have tried our e-paper have told me they enjoy it. It’s delivered early each day, is easy to page through and enlarge, resembles the printed newspaper and contains more news content than we are able to currently publish in the print edition each day.

Other online readers enjoy the constantly updated, up-to-the-minute news delivery on our website, wctrib.com.

Our subscribers have access to both, as well as all Forum Communications newspapers across the Upper Midwest.

While some things are changing, please know that we will continue reporting on the news seven days a week. We will cover your favorite local sports teams, share your celebratory milestones and sorrow-filled memorials, and offer everything from investigative reporting and explanatory stories to local features and opinion pieces.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to join the 11,500 readers who have already created a West Central Tribune account and read our content digitally. Please try the digital access that comes with your print subscription by going to wctrib.com/activate. Once activated, please check out the e-paper.

I think you’ll like it after you give it a try. We are also happy to help walk anyone through this process. Simply call 320-235-1150 or email memberservices@wctrib.com.

Our team members all love producing and reading news and advertising content in our print and digital editions each day. This difficult decision to reduce our print delivery days ensures we can still deliver the strongest and most comprehensive news report in the region for many years to come.

We thank you for your loyal readership over the years and humbly ask for your continued support.

Editor Kelly Boldan contributed to this article.