Our newly named, focused and designed newspapers, the VillageSoup Journal and VillageSoup Gazette are reaching news stands late Dec. 1, early Dec. 2. Mid-Thursday afternoon will be the normal arrival time.

To get a sense of what folks thought about where we are headed, we asked staff to invite friends and relatives to respond to an impromptu survey over Thanksgiving weekend; we wanted reactions to several newspaper designs we were considering. Thanks very much to the 300-plus individuals who accepted the invitation and let us know what they felt. Eighty-three percent favored a design I did not. We are following their wishes, not mine. Half the respondents added comments, which are always helpful and sometimes caused us to swallow hard and take a deep breath. Critics can be brutal.

Why the change? Our circulation is declining; in fact, circulation of every newspaper in the country, with surely few exceptions, is declining. Newspapers are not as relevant as they were before the Internet. Newspaper display advertising continues to be necessary to support the level of professional journalism critical to an informed citizenry. We are addressing these facts.

In our new format, we accept that more and more people get answers to questions about daily community life on knox.villagesoup.com and waldo.villagesoup.com. We will shift the focus of our papers to revealing the richness of life in the community. You’ll continue to get the daily events in print. The VillageSoup Gazette and VillageSoup Journal will continue to include news from the past week, but the placement and prominence of these stories will change.

We will build from those stories appearing first online, providing further depth and insight to trends. In this week’s Gazette, you will learn what congressional cuts to a home heating assistance programs mean to the 60,000 Mainers who rely on government help to keep their kitchens warm through the winter and how local politics sometimes gets in the way. In the Journal, you will read about safety, visual impact and possible local-level moratorium matters related to the proposed liquefied petroleum gas tank at Mack Point. In both papers you will learn about two retired Rockland engineers who are dressing windows with innovative insulated panels in the homes of low-income residents, volunteering time and labor for the community.

In the Gazette’s Voices section, lifelong Midcoast resident John Christie lends perspective to what it is like to grow up here, and the tension that forever remains in one’s blood between what is left behind and what draws us home. In both papers, Erin Domareki, in her aptly named “I’m Gonna Kill Him” column, addresses what all parents of young children dread: The eight-hour drive of hell to Grandmother’s house for the holiday celebration.

In the Gazette, Rockland’s poet laureate Kendall Merriam honors his 92-year-old twin aunts with a poem that illustrates a time in local history, in the pre-World War II years when airplanes amazingly flew overhead all the way from Europe, sometimes landing at Owls Head for repairs.

In the Journal and Gazette, Tom McCutchan, one of hundreds of local citizens with phenomenal backgrounds, shares a scientific basis for a decision facing every parent and every adult: To get a flu shot or not. Philip Conkling, Island Institute’s president, gives us insight into the nature of island politics as well as a new perspective on gossip.

In the Journal, Isabel Morse Maresh reveals a touching story of two sisters from Lincolnville who suffered many family members dying at young ages, but who later created beautiful flower and rock gardens that drew visitors from near and far.

All these stories will appear first in print. They will then be available online to newspaper subscribers or online iMembers in the SoupSelect section of our websites. Breaking news will continue to be available free to all users.

Why the name changes? VillageSoup (remember the VillageSoup Times and VillageSoup Citizen?) is long recognized and respected for the forward-looking service it provides to citizens and businesses. We want our papers to be aligned with this admired brand.

Our company is leading the industry with its online approach. Our website traffic (2.5 million monthly page views), participation (160,000 unique monthly visitors) and revenue ($500,000 annual online revenue) in relation to our Knox and Waldo county markets exceed that of any newspaper website we have found. We hope to achieve the same leadership position with this new approach to our newspapers.

Leading the way along a new approach to a fog-shrouded destination is risky. It requires constant attention and frequent course corrections. Most newspaper companies are holding to familiar courses, imagining their weekly printed newspaper as the primary vessel to deliver daily news. Holding on to past ways is not without risk. While we risk offending current customers while seeking new ones, those holding to past ways risk losing new customers to new providers, while holding tightly to current customers. Only time will tell who weathers this storm and reaches the industry-wide destination of new-found sustainability.

We know you will help us make these course corrections, and we are eager to hear your reactions to our new approach. We appreciate your past loyalty and we hope you will embrace our new efforts and encourage others to join you.