New era for Times Colonist as printing shifts to Ladysmith

If you are a print subscriber, and you are reading this at a normal time on Tuesday morning, then our grand shift in printing worked.

If, however, your newspaper is late, then we have more work to do, and more bugs to take out of the system.

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We are completing one of the biggest transformations in the history of this newspaper — a history that can be traced back to December 1858. After having our own printing press for all of this time, we have decided to close our own presses and have our printing done by Black Press in Ladysmith.

This change should not be seen as a hint that the Times Colonist is fading away, because in fact, the opposite is true. It is costly and inefficient to have a press in operation only a few hours a day, and using a dedicated press facility such as the one in Ladysmith will allow us to substantially reduce our production costs, ensuring a longer, healthier life for this newspaper.

The move does carry a different kind of cost, though. It means that about 30 Times Colonist employees — our friends and colleagues — have left us. It is never pleasant to see dedicated people leave the building for the last time.

The Times Colonist is one of the last major Canadian newspapers to move its printing to an outsider provider. After making the switch, newspapers have reported higher efficiency and lower costs with few service disruptions.

Ah, but they don’t have the Malahat to contend with. We are well aware of the highway closures from time to time, and we have contingency plans in place.

But it should be noted that the Malahat is closed only about once a year in the time of night when the Times Colonist will need to be brought south from Ladysmith. And of course, readers north of the Malahat will no longer have to worry about a highway closure disrupting their deliveries.

We have done several tests with the new press, and we have realigned delivery routes as needed. Still, we will not be surprised if problems, big or small, crop up in the next week or two. This is a big change.

The press we have closed was installed almost 30 years ago, and longtime readers will remember that it was not an easy transition. We apologized several times for late papers. Let’s hope the switch goes more smoothly this time around.

We hope you notice another change, too: We will be able to offer much more colour than before, including daily comics in colour for the first time.

The change in printing is just one part of the transformation taking place at the Times Colonist. We are reshaping our newspaper and our service in many ways, with the rise in digital services every bit as important as the printing press.

Thousands of Times Colonist subscribers are reading us on their tablets or computer screens. We are online in two ways — as a website, updated through the day, and as a digital replica of the daily newspaper. That replica is delivered reliably every morning, and does not depend on a printing press anywhere.

We also offer an increasing variety of options for businesses looking to get their messages out. We’re not just a print newspaper; we also have magazines and our website, and we can help businesses with their own websites and social media presence in several ways.

This is not the Times Colonist of five years ago. Technology has changed everything, and readers and advertisers expect more from us. We will deliver, in many different ways.

We strongly believe that newspapers still matter, and will continue to matter for years to come. A healthy community relies on information, and there is no better source of information about Greater Victoria than this newspaper.

The community relies on us for many other things as well. Consider the millions of dollars we have raised for charity efforts through our annual book drive and Christmas fund, or our sponsorship of a wide variety of community events. And every year, we give charities free advertising space worth a million dollars.

Closing our press room helps to ensure the long-term viability of the Times Colonist. That is good news.

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