Yesterday I sent around an e-mail that put a stake in the heart of the three-editions-a-day website.

And so it died at the 3 pm budget meeting.

Time for the eulogy — complete with “next season” suggestions of The Three rising from the ashes.

The noon, 5 pm and 12:01 am editions were arbitrary points.

Yes, there were some discussions about “day-parting” and high traffic times of the day.

We knew our peak was in the morning, which coincides nicely with print production. We knew it fell throughout the day, with a bump around the lunch hour.

So there were reader reasons for switching up stories and keeping the site “live.”

We’ve since learned some things: that readership as a portion hasn’t increased appreciably at 5 pm; that most of our Web traffic, night or day, is referred anyway.

But the biggest reason all along was to re-train our brains as producers of news.

All the professional editors at the Missourian learned and practiced journalism in the pre-’net days. Like those little goslings imprinting the first thing they see as mother, we think in ink, to borrow a catchy phrase from the Tribune.

Or, as Joy Mayer said at the May retreat: When we dream, we dream in print.

We see little six column headlines floating through our heads. We hear the rumble of the press. And, if we could smell in dreams, we’d sniff the distinctive brine of ink particles in the air.

So as much as anything, we needed the three editions as a disciplining device. We needed help in thinking constantly about publishing to the Web, first.

As I recall, there was a near uniform reply of Yes! when I asked retreat participants whether it was time to take down the three editions.

The assumption here is that we’ve evolved. We don’t need the training wheels anymore.

Instead, we publish continuously.

In other words, we publish more throughout the day, not less.

Right?

I’m fairly optimistic. “Rim fast” and other changes should help us exercise the new muscles.

I worry that we won’t sustain packages (visual with narrative; photo with graphic; etc.) as well.

Let’s talk early and often se we can make adjustments on the fly.

And if it doesn’t work, we can always make The Three live again.

Tom