Tuesday, December 16, 2008


So the Detroit Media Partnership has finally decided that constant incremental cuts is a losing proposition.

According to media blogger Ken Doctor's Content Bridges blog, Detroit Media CEO David Hunke reportedly called the current model "unsustainable."

"And [Detroit Media Partnership CEO David] Hunke said, if we don't do this, the current model is unsustainable. So he'd rather take the calculated risk of going to a new format -- rather than sit back and do incremental cutbacks."
To prevent those small cuts, the Detroit News and Free Press are making one big cut - namely, home delivery has been reduced by four days, and the print edition will be reduced to 32 pages most days.

Scaling back print operations has been particularly supported by the tech sector, but it's uncertain just how beneficial the cuts will be.

To be sure, a segment of the newspaper industry is in real trouble. But cutting coverage further fails to capitalize on newspapers' strengths.

Obviously a strong Web presence is important, as is keeping up with the changing demands of a society that relies more and more on technology. But if your product (the news coverage) is only offered in print, are readers just going to give up on local news? People will always care about what's happening in their communities. The problem is, many newspapers aren't offering much to satisfy that need. Local newspapers have an insurmountable advantage when it comes to providing local news coverage. Focus on strengthening your product, and the packaging will be a lot less important.

To illustrate the point, let's compare the top Web headlines as of 1 p.m. today, from four random small and mid-market dailies, along with the headlines from four of the large-market papers.

Abilene Reporter News:
TV stations conducting blackout test prior to digital conversion

Helena Independent Record:
Forecast: Brrrrr

Adirondack Daily Enterprise:
Governor’s budget would close Camp Gabriels (third update)

Boca Raton News:
Boca Raton student continues his annual toy collection drive for needy children

Those stories have only two things in common:

1) They're boring as hell to anyone that lives thousands of miles away

2) No one else has those stories

Sure, the content might not be sexy and only appeals to a select audience. But most newspapers operate in a regional market. The nice thing is, they're the same people!

Now let's compare those headlines with the big boys...

Washington Post:
Federal Reserve Slashes Interest Rate to Historic Low

New York Times:
Fed Cuts Benchmark Rate to Near Zero

USA Today:
Fed cuts interest rates to near zero to combat economic recession

LA Times:
Fed cuts rates to record low: 0% to 0.25%

Now let's just look at one more news provider, this time a Web site

Fed slashes key rate to near zero

Anyone see a problem here?

* Alan Mutter isn't a big fan of cancelling home delivery.

In the reports of not-every-day delivery are true, the papers in Detroit may be about to kick off a self-fulfilling cycle of decline that eventually may consume them.

Mark Potts is.

And if it does drive readers from print to online, then that's a good thing, because online is where the future is. The sooner the newspaper industry truly understands that–and begins paying truly serious attention to promoting online and working hard to find innovative sources of revenue online–the sooner the transition to the inevitable future will take place.


Anonymous said...

Merge the PT and the Breeze!

Anonymous said...

Top headlines on dailybreeze.com at 11 a.m. Wednesday:

Tough love ... or too tough?
Dad punishes son for vandalism by making him advertise his offense

Alleged Wilmington drunken driver kills teen coming home from church

Top headlines on presstelegram.com at 11 a.m. Wednesday:

Tough love or too tough?
Dad punishes son for vandalism by making him advertise his offense

Alleged drunken driver kills teen coming home from church

I'd say the merger already happened...

Anonymous said...

YAY! Now we just need to cut the redundancies. Where should we start?

Anonymous said...

People want to read about what's going on in their community. Newspapers will continue shrinking until they realize and capitalize on that fact.

Anonymous said...

This paper should be sold ASAP.

Anonymous said...

You guys are crazy. I love to pay subscription fees for a paper full of wire copy about other towns that I can get off the internet for free.

Anonymous said...

Just like the big car companies, you journalist are being paid to much for the job you do. Its the unions that a bring down the papers!!!! Name one business that isn't tanking because of unions.

Oh wait... all the banks.

Check out what they are doing in Denver.

Denver Newspaper Agency seeks union concessions
Associated Press - December 19, 2008 4:34 PM ET

DENVER (AP) - The agency that handles the business operations of The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News has asked six unions to accept $20 million in wage and benefit concessions by Jan. 16.....


Len Cutler said...

Name one business that isn't tanking because of unions.

How about Hollywood?

For the record, that's a specious argument, unless you believe that organized labor caused the recession.

Can you name a business whose success is based on rejecting unions?

Anonymous said...

UPS is thriving and they are totally unionized.