Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Detroit Media Partnership announced today a first-of-its-kind plan in the struggling U.S. newspaper industry — emphasizing more online delivery of news and information and cutting back home delivery days.

The Partnership, which runs the business operations of both the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, will be eliminating home delivery on all but their most lucrative days, which are Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Printed "Express" issues will still be available at newsstands daily, but will be trimmed back from their current size, and the papers will encourage readers instead to check out daily digital editions available on their web sites.

The two papers, which are run through a joint operating agreement, are looking to save money on print and delivery costs, which have shot up over the past year with the rise in ink and gas prices. At the same time, circulation and advertising have dried up nationwide, and that’s been especially true in Detroit, home of the Big Three automakers who are seeking a federal bailout to continue operation in the midst of a devastating recession.

The Free Press, which is owned by Gannett, and the News, which is owned by MediaNews Group, have already bought out dozens of workers over the past two years. Circulation at the papers has plummeted by double-digit percentages since 2003.

This next step is a drastic one, and it’s unclear whether it will work. After all, the internet has been one of the main culprits in the decline of American newspapers, who have yet to figure out how to leverage new media advertising in an effective manner. Forcing readers online to get the paper could turn out to be a foolish strategy.

One of the advantages of paid newspapers has always been home delivery, a fact the free Examiner chain has recognized and used to its great advantage, giving it the ability to sell a more upscale demographic to its advertisers.

The print retreat will be a defeat that would alienate older readers, a key demographic for newspapers, who are unlikely to go online or even to the local newsstand to get their daily read.

Despite the amount of time I spend on line, researching and blogging, I still enjoy having the newspaper delivered to my door every morning. There's something therapeutic in enjoying your morning cup of coffee along with the daily news and sports. It's an American tradition that dates back to the days of Benjamin Franklin.

Starting now, my current subscription to the morning Free Press, will arrive each day in my email mailbox in the form of a password. With that daily password, I will then be able to link to the Free Press site where I can then access the digital paper.

So what happens when, one morning, the password misses the mailbox and lands in the bushes?

That'll be one call, to the circulation department. I can't wait to make.

No comments: