Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Three: It’s a magic number

Remember the good 'ole days when your local newspaper used to deliver to your front door? Everyday?

That’s the question Detroiters soon will be asking.

On Tuesday, the city’s two major dailies – the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News – announced each only will provide home delivery Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, beginning early next year. Readers can still purchase papers daily at newsstands and visit both papers’ Web sites, which will offer more.

Both the Free Press, the nation's 20th largest daily paper, and the News,
No. 49, are owned by two media powerhouses – the Gannett Corp. and MediaNews Group, respectively.

Aaahhhh … therein lies the problem.

Over the past decade, the newspaper industry has made a gradual, then rapid leap to the Information Superhighway and along the way, Mr. Dubow and Mr. Singleton and their buddies have bought more papers than should be allowed to be owned at one time. It’s great when you’re in the black, but now, they are paying the price … literally.

You have papers across the country – most of them owned by Gannett and MediaNews – that don’t fully understand the value of the Internet. Some of the individual papers do, and I applaud them. But I think those sitting atop their glass ceilings are looking down through them with blindfolds on.

It’s unfortunate that people who don’t have access to the Internet will be the ones who lose the most, but part of me applauds the three-day-a-week delivery decision to do something – anything – to address the future of journalism.

Too many papers (I’ll be kind and not name names) are adamant about not letting go of the physical paper product. And those who have given in don’t understand you can’t just throw stories up on a Web site and call it a day.

The digital revolution is alive and well and money can be made to pay the staff that has been laid off and to resume the coverage that has been eliminated if the men and women who are more concerned about lining their own pockets than the quality of the product it is putting out would stop worrying about if the newspaper is headed to a slow death.

The newspaper will survive … it just will look a little different.


Zuri said...

Yeah, I agree. Let me add this though: Just because it's going to look different or be different (the newspaper) doesn't mean the jobs will survive with it. There needs to be an advertising base on the internet that is profitable. Newspapers have to take exception to the fact that what they're charging online right now for advertising is simply stupid, as in not enough. Papers just give away their content without charging to sustain themselves. That is a mindset that has to change in the office of the publisher, where the paper has to set the price, not the so-called market.

KJ said...

I agree about the monopoly causing a lot of the problem, but I also think it will become obvious that the source of news for printed papers has to be local and responsive. It's been next to impossible sometimes to get coverage for local events people which people would like to know about, partly because every paper has spent lots of column space on the big national stories, which are available in more detail online. The interest and advertising dollars will be there for the local merchants and local stories if they aren't controlled by media giants who don't care about local! One of the great things you did for the Herald was get different local ministers, etc., involved and feeling invested in the success of your column and the newspaper. Unfortunately, the 'reorganizations' have pulled even further back from the very thing which, it seems to me, would save them.