Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Friday, December 12, 2008

media and society

-- media and society -- freep and detroit news: moving online?

If true, I have to say, I really didn't expect this to hit a major city newspaper for a while yet. I guess the recession is accelerating all sorts of things.

Crain's Detroit Business: Management to address Freep, Detroit News rumors next week

Job cuts, online publication expected to be covered

By Bill Shea (Crain's Detroit Business, 1:46 pm, December 11, 2008)

Rumored shifts from paper to online publication and further job cuts at the Detroit Free Press and the partnership that controls its shared business functions with The Detroit News are expected to be addressed next week by the newspaper’s management. Free Press Publisher David Hunke, who is also in charge of the 95 percent Gannett Co. Inc.-controlled Detroit Media Partnership, sent a memo to staff today discussing the impending announcement, but did not reveal any details.

The memo reads: “In the past 24 hours you have no doubt heard a lot of rumors and several news reports about significant changes at the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News. Clearly, over the past months we have been exploring various scenarios to reposition the companies for growth and to ensure two strong newspaper voices in the community. We plan to share details early next week with you, as well as with readers, advertisers, unions and the community. In the meantime, let’s continue to focus on doing the best job we can and on building the strongest relationships we can among ourselves and with our customers.”

The rumors have centered on speculation the newspaper (and possibly both) would shift to a print edition on Thursdays and Sundays, and online publication the rest of the week. Some online speculation says a secret effort called “Project Griffin” has limited print editions available for newsstand or box sales, with full home delivery just two or three days weekly. Crain’s first reported about a potential online-print change in July, and Hunke has repeatedly denied that was going to happen, as late as Nov. 30.

Calls to Hunke’s office were referred to Leland Bassett, chairman and CEO of the Detroit-based public-relations firm Bassett & Bassett Inc. “The Detroit Media Partnership is looking at everything right now. No decisions have been made,” Bassett said. He declined to address any speculation or say when the partnership hired his firm.

Speculation also has been fueled by the launch of the digitalfreepress.com and edetroitnews.com Web sites and by mailers offering online and limited home delivery....

I will admit, apart from being surprised that this happened so soon after the Monitor went online-only, my only curiosity is about what, precisely, the Freep and News plan to offer in those subscription online editions, and what that will mean for the current freep.com and detnews.com sites. After all, you can't reasonably charge for online delivery of the same content that you're largely delivering online for free if the only major difference is format. And whatever the market may be for the NY Times and Wall Street Journal online PDF replica editions -- which, frankly, always seemed like a way of marrying the most inconvenience to a profound lack of need -- I can't imagine that either of the Detroit papers would have the same proportion of users.

I wonder if the Chicago Tribune/Red Eye might not be the next metropolitan daily to follow. After all, Tribune has filed for bankruptcy. Still, I would think that at this point, it would disrupt their advertising model so badly that, even though ad revenue is declining sharply, it's really not yet worth it for something like that.

I also now really wonder if USA Today might now be the next national daily to follow in the Monitor's footsteps. As I mentioned last time, I haven't seen anyone actually reading a paper version of the paper in donkey's years, and I'm pretty sure that the online edition is substantially identical (and likely a bit easier to read, physically) to the paper edition.

Posted by iain at 04:39 PM in category media and society