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Code crossover: How long before the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun are merged?

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Journal Pitch

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How long before the Edmonton Sun and the Edmonton Journal are rolled into one newspaper?

One year? Eighteen months? Two years?

Not much longer, it's said here.

On Monday, the Edmonton Journal cheerfully notified its subscribers they could once again have a Sunday paper.

"Great News!” the Journal exclaimed to subscribers. "Brighten your weekends with the Sunday Sun!"

"We recently welcomed the Edmonton Sun to our growing news family," the pitch went on. "For a very limited time, we are offering our loyal Edmonton Journal subscribers the opportunity to enhance their existing 6-day delivery by adding the extensive Sunday Sun." (Extensive? Typo? Did they mean expensive? Surely not that either…)

The deal costs $4.99 a month, plus taxes, the pitchperson who drafted the note enthused. "These two products combined will ensure you never miss a single day of award winning local news coverage, sports and entertainment." Yadda-yadda.

Alert newspaper readers will recall that it was only back in the spring of 2012 when Postmedia Network Inc. pulled the plug on its Sunday editions in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton as a cost-cutting measure while the venerable newspaper chain tried to reorient its efforts toward digital marketing.

Since then, the Toronto-based media corporation changed course back toward print by purchasing Sun Media Ltd.’s daily newspapers and the rest of Sun's English-language community and trade publications from Quebecor Inc. for the fire-sale price of $316 million.

When the acquisition was announced in the fall of 2014, the giant Toronto-based media corporation promised that both Postmedia and Sun newspapers would continue to operate independently of one another in markets where they competed directly. Just the same, shareholders were also promised there would be "synergies," and that Postmedia expected to find $6 to $10 million in savings, mostly through unidentified shared services.

So far, Postmedia's various corporate strategies have not appeared to be very successful. In July, the company reported losses continued to mount in the third quarter, with digital advertising revenues down 4 per cent from a year earlier, print ad revenues in free fall, down more than 20 per cent, and print circulation revenue down 6.5 per cent.

Here in Edmonton, word soon leaked out that the entire Sun staff would leave its rented offices on Edmonton’s east side and move into the Journal’s half-empty downtown building. That move is now imminent.

Three weeks ago, Journal Editor-in-Chief Margo Goodhand assured AlbertaPolitics.ca that while the advertising staffs might be amalgamated after the move, the Sun and Journal would have separate newsrooms and maintain "distinct print and digital brands."

Except on Sundays, it now turns out. On Sundays, the Journal's fusty readers will have the chance to brighten their weekends with the scruffy little right-wing tabloid.

It's said here that notwithstanding the honourable intentions of the Journal's local managers, this is another step toward the inevitable amalgamation of the two Edmonton dailies.

Having promised to maintain the papers' distinct brands, Postmedia will need to keep them as separate entities long enough to establish its goodwill. But whether the Sunday Sun scheme succeeds or fails, pressure to amalgamate will continue to increase.

If it fails and produces no new revenues, it will make the cost-cutting impacts of a merger look more attractive. If it succeeds and proves synergies are possible, it will have much the same effect. If it drains subscribers from the Journal to the Sun, it will likely only mean the Sun's unrepentantly indecorous style will predominate in the merged paper.

So now that this step has been taken, pressure from head office to fully merge the operations will eventually become irresistible.

Then the only questions will be whether to call the newspaper the Journal Sun or the Sun Journal, whether to publish it in tabloid format or in the Journal's near-tabloid shrunken broadsheet, and whether to bother with a hyphen.

Plus, of course, since the Edmonton print newspaper market will be then a monopoly, whether or not to bother with a Sunday edition.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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