Detroit Newspapers Going Digital

December 16, 2008

Newspapers are desperately seeking new business models that will help them survive dwindling readership and a deep advertising slump exacerbated by the recession.

The latest are the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, which said Monday they will announce “a sweeping set of strategic and innovative changes” on Tuesday.
The Detroit Media Partnership, which runs the business operations of the papers, said the changes are “designed to better meet advertiser and reader needs in an era in which digital delivery is revolutionizing how people get information.”
Detroit would be the largest metro area to undergo a major media makeover.
The Christian Science Monitor next year will become the first national newspaper to drop its daily print edition and focus on publishing online.
The East Valley Tribune, a daily in suburban Phoenix owned by Freedom Communications Inc., is reducing the number of publication days of its print edition while posting news on its Web site daily. The Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb, recently cut its print edition to four days a week from six.
The changes at the Detroit papers include “a focus on more robust and more engaging digital delivery methods, and support the continued publication of two daily newspapers in Detroit,” the partnership said in a statement Monday evening.
Big-city papers have suffered from a loss of classified advertising, but “Detroit is suffering more than most,” said John Morton, an independent newspaper analyst in Silver Spring, Md.
“When you have automotive, real estate and help-wanted in the tank, it can have a profound effect on revenue,” he said.
Bassett said the Free Press is the 20th-largest daily in the country, with a circulation of 298,243; double on Sunday. The News, which does not publish on Sunday, had circulation of 178,280 at the end of September.
The rank-and-file are eager to hear what’s next. The Free Press is owned by Gannett Co. and the News by MediaNews Group.
“I am as much in the dark as my members are,” said Lou Mleczko, president of Local 22 of the Detroit Newspaper Guild, which represents 350 newsroom employees at the papers.
Joint-operating agreements allow papers like the News and Free Press to share business and production operations while keeping their newsrooms separate.
The Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 makes the arrangement exempt from antitrust laws if the attorney general certifies one paper is in danger of failing.
Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer

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