Credit: Courtesy of Masthead Maine

Masthead Maine, the largest newspaper publishing company in the state, will stop printing the Monday editions of four of its five daily newspapers starting in March.

Starting March 2, the Portland Press Herald, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Sun Journal in Lewiston will no longer produce their print editions on Monday. Only the Times Record in Brunswick will not be affected by the move, the company said Friday.

Part of an effort to save staff jobs, the move reflects larger pressures facing journalism and the newspaper industry.

“We’ve seen a decline in revenue in 2019 and a drop in newsstand sales,” said Lisa DeSisto, CEO of Masthead Maine and publisher of the five newspapers. Sales of single copies of newspapers fell in the double digits, she said.

For a long time, Mondays have had the lowest circulation and least ad revenue compared with other days of the week, which are profitable, DeSisto said.

“It’s an expense-savings initiative that will preserve jobs so all of our newsrooms will remain the size that they are today,” she said.

The company will continue to produce seven distinct editions of the four newspapers every week, but it will distribute the Monday edition online only. The Times Record only publishes Monday through Friday and Masthead Maine wanted to keep it a five-day paper, DeSisto said. Its Monday edition will be printed in Lewiston rather than South Portland.

The Bangor Daily News, which uses Masthead Maine’s press in Lewiston to print its daily newspaper, will continue to produce a Monday edition.

DeSisto would not give figures for revenue or savings, but said most of the savings will come from cutting newsprint and delivery costs. She said overtime expenses also will be less this year because a new press installed in South Portland last year added to overtime hours.

Declining readership and ads, along with competition from online news, have forced one in five U.S. newspapers, or close to 1,800, out of business since 2004, according to a 2018 University of North Carolina study on the media.

Masthead Maine experienced its own newspaper shutdown in October, when it said ongoing financial losses caused it to close the 135-year-old Journal Tribune in Biddeford.

The Press Herald has 75 employees in its South Portland newsroom. It has an average of 32,000 subscribers on weekdays and 50,000 for the Maine Sunday Telegram, according to Stefanie Manning, group vice president of circulation and marketing for Masthead Maine.

Subscription prices will remain the same, she said, because the newspapers still will produce electronic editions.

Digital subscriptions are picking up the slack from declining print sales.

“October digital subscriptions offset declines in home delivery,” said Manning. That uptick has continued into 2020. She would not provide goals for digital subscriptions for this year. The newspaper has 9,781 digital-only subscribers.

Since buying the Portland Press Herald, Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal in 2015, Masthead Maine has expanded to own all but one daily newspaper in Maine.

Owner Reade Brower bought those three newspapers from financier Donald Sussman that year. Brower bought the Lewiston Sun Journal and its affiliated papers, including The Forecaster weekly newspapers, for an undisclosed price in July 2017.

Brower expanded his newspaper group by purchasing the Journal Tribune, The Times Record of Brunswick and the Mainely Media weekly publications from Pennsylvania-based Sample News Group in 2018.

That same year, Brower bought the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander weekly newspapers.

The Bangor Daily News, privately owned by longtime publisher Richard Warren, is the only independent daily newspaper left in Maine.