Brazilian newspaper Zero Hora will replace its Sunday edition with a bigger weekend edition

After a year in which all major Brazilian newspapers experienced a decline in the circulation of their print editions, new strategies are beginning to emerge to deal with a situation in which rethinking business models is imperative.

Zero Hora, the biggest print media publication of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul and part of media company RBS Group, announced on Jan. 27 the end of its Sunday edition, which will be replaced by a larger weekend edition released on Saturday mornings.

The redesign is the result of a survey, in which readers and subscribers were consulted, which revealed that the Saturday edition, despite bringing relevant content, had a very short life. The Sunday edition of the newspaper begins circulating Saturday afternoon.

Last year, RBS Group tested the weekend super edition idea with another publication, Diário Catarinense. According to the company, the initiative received high levels of approval from the public and market, betting on a trend of weekend editions with more in-depth reports, materials with weekly content (magazines) and more information for the family.

The change is part of a series of 2016 updates, which, according to the company, focuses on strengthening the investment for journalism. The strategy also involves greater investment in digital platforms. The decision reflects the latest data from the Circulation Verification Institute (IVC for its acronym in Portuguese): while the print version of Zero Hora had a decrease of 11.1 percent in sales in 2015, the digital version rose more than 32 percent.

Adaptation or extinction

To understand the current news industry, one just needs to look at the number of people reading newspapers or watching the screen of their mobile phone in public spaces. In addition to Zero Horacirculations decreased last year for the rest of the nine largest print newspapers in Brazil.

Losses on sales of print newspapers have a direct impact in the newsroom, causing job cuts or creating situations in which it is impossible to exist. Jornal de Londrina, the second largest publication from Grupo Paranaense, stopped circulating in December 2015, 26 years after its creation.

Most of the country's major newsrooms experienced job cuts and, according to the project Volt Data, 684 journalists were fired in 2015.

On the other hand, seven of the ten largest newspapers in the country grew their online versions - which shows that the migration to digital media might be one of the causes of the decrease in circulation of print versions.

The year was also positive for the digital editions of monthly magazines. According to IVC's website, the volume of sales of 32 titles rose 5 percent from January to August 2015, with a growth curve that continued throughout the year. In January, digital magazines accounted for 10 percent of all monthly magazines. In August, this figure stood at 11.6 percent.

However, the main question for newspapers is how to ensure that the budget does not plummet along with sales. In the transition from paper to digital, sustainability remains an issue for all journalistic enterprises. In a recent roundtable discussion that asked how journalism can survive this disruptive scenario, the editor-in-chief of The Economist, Zanny Minton-Beddoes, said that it is necessary to maintain the quality of journalism and improve the use of technology.

This view is shared by media executives who attended the last edition of ISOJ in 2015. Susan Glasser, director of Politico, said during the event in Austin, Texas that it is more important than ever to choose the right subjects and approaches that attract reader's attention. For her, it is increasingly difficult to "create a vital product."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.