Print media received a vote of confidence Monday, with Hearst Corp. announcing it will equip the Albany Times Union with a new $60 million printing press and packaging facility.
Wanting to replace its 39-year-old press, the Times Union plans to add approximately 70,000 square feet to its headquarters on Albany Shaker Road. The new press, which should be completed by 2011, will broaden the newspaper’s production and color printing capabilities.
“We have a strong belief print media has an important place in our future,” said George Hearst III, the Times Union’s vice president, associate publisher and general manager.
Hearst’s approval of the expansion project came more than two years after the Times Union initially submitted a proposal for the printing facility to Colonie planning officials. George Hearst said the expansion project was delayed by the paper’s Web site, content management, advertising and circulation system initiatives, which took precedence over the new press.
The new facility will be added to the northwestern side of the Times Union’s headquarters. The paper’s 17,000-square-foot old printing bay will be converted into insert storage space. The Times Union also plans to renovate over 35,000 square feet of existing mail room and newsprint warehousing space.
The old press was installed in 1969 and it was expanded around 1973. The old press has a net output of about 40,000 papers per hour and the new press could kick that production capacity up to 70,000, George Hearst said.
Like newspapers throughout the country, the Times Union has seen its circulation numbers steadily decline. During the six-month period ending Sept. 30, its Monday-to-Friday circulation fell 5.5 percent to 90,216. But its Sunday circulation rose 1.9 percent to 142,189, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Daily Gazette saw a 1.2 percent weekday circulation decline during that period, to 48,211.
The Times Union also prints campus newspapers for a half-dozen colleges and universities, such as The College of Saint Rose in Albany.
“We certainly will have the tools to grow the business and the ability to capture more newspaper business,” said George Hearst.
The Times Union’s production capabilities became an issue after Tech Valley Printing in Watervliet abruptly closed in February. Some school papers that Tech Valley had printed sought the Times Union’s printing services, George Hearst said.
Union College’s campus paper, the Concordiensis, initially used the Times Union’s press after Tech Valley shut down. But “disappointed by the poor quality of the print job,” it switched to The Daily Gazette’s recently refurbished press in Schenectady, Concordiensis reported in its Feb. 28 issue.
The Times Union is currently searching for a press manufacturer. Company Director of Marketing Allison Lauenstein put the expansion project’s price tag around $60 million.
The New York-based Hearst owns 15 daily and 31 weekly newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle. The last paper Hearst equipped with a new press was the San Antonio Express-News in 1994.
A handful of upstate papers have received new presses in the last six years. Gannett Co. about two years ago opened a printing facility in Johnson City for the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Ithaca Journal-News and Elmira Star-Gazette. The Buffalo News and Syracuse Post-Standard also have new presses.