After 110 years in circulation, The Diamondback will cease its weekly print publication in March, the newspaper’s parent company announced Monday.
“This is a very logical, natural step that The Diamondback is taking to get in touch with the University of Maryland community,” said Leah Brennan, the newspaper’s editor in chief. “This is where our readership is, so we’re trying to meet them where they are.”
According to Tom Madigan — board president of Maryland Media Inc., The Diamondback’s parent company — the paper’s digital readership is eight times as large as the print audience. Eliminating the print edition is a change board members have been talking about for several years, he said.
The board made the decision after years of watching The Diamondback’s audience move from print to online.
According to Brennan, the website saw about 150,000 visitors last April, the most recent full month of school that data is available. Print editions of the newspaper, meanwhile, bring in around 5,000 readers per week — or 20,000 a month.
In 2013, the paper cut its Friday edition. In 2015, it transitioned to being a weekly paper. Now, the newspaper is approaching the point where the cost of printing the paper will exceed advertiser revenue, and costs were expected to go into the negative “sometime this school year,” Madigan added.
“We wanted to stay ahead of that,” he said. “Rather than operate at a loss, we should take our resources and put them behind something that was going to have greater longevity and offers a lot more room for improvement and innovation.”
In recent years, dozens of university newspapers have seen cutbacks amid budget shortfalls and have had a new focus on digital media. Schools such as the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Syracuse University and Purdue University have reduced or eliminated their print production in recent years.
Brennan and Madigan said they hope to reach more readers with an increased focus on digital media. Madigan also expects advertisers to follow the change to online.
“When students walk across campus, they’re looking for news on their phone, not necessarily picking up the paper along the way,” Brennan said.
Originally named The Triangle, The Diamondback began publication in 1910, and changed its name in 1921. The newspaper’s name preceded the Diamondback terrapin becoming the university’s mascot, which happened in 1933.
In 1971, after printing multiple blank pages in protest of the Vietnam War, the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents — which oversees economic policy for this university — cut off the paper’s funding. Since then, The Diamondback has remained financially and editorially independent from the university.
Maryland Media, Inc. is a non-profit organization. The company, established in 1971, also publishes the Mitzpeh, an online publication covering the university Jewish community, as well as the Terrapin yearbook.
The Diamondback also launched a podcast called Offbeat last week, and developers are currently working on a Diamondback app. Coders are also making progress on Diamondback TV, which will use existing TVs on campus to display the newspaper’s content, board member Corey Dade said.
The final print edition of the paper is tentatively set to run in March, Brennan said. The newspaper will continue to produce the Survival Guide, among other print products such as the senior edition, which Brennan described as “revenue drivers.”
Madigan expressed pride in the decision, which he said has been led predominantly by students over the course of “years.”
“This is an evolution that the students have led, which is fitting because this is not only where the future of the news industry is going but it’s also where the present is,” he said. “I’m just very proud of the way they really led this charge to meet their audience, right where they are, right where they need to be.”
Senior staff writer Arya Hodjat contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated the paper changed its name to recognize the university’s mascot. The newspaper’s name preceded the Diamondback terrapin becoming the university’s mascot. This story has been updated.