Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A sign of the digital age?

Being on a magazine foundation board, I can vouch that the most expensive part of the 'business' is paper, printing, and delivery (in our case, postage). The challenge is whether you can transition to completely electronic and keep enough ad revenue to pay salaries, etc.

The table has been set in some ways, since most newspapers have free electronic access, so subscription fees are rare. I know I have been reading the Free Press on line for years, even before I moved back to Detroit. Only recently have we subscribed to the hard copy - for the coupons! (which covers the cost). But even then, it frequently doesn't get read until the evening at all.

The Christian Science Monitor is already given up the paper copy. Is the Free Press and News heading that way? I even used to be a Free Press paper boy back in middle school in the 1970's!
DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are leaning toward cutting home delivery to three days a week, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The Journal, quoting a person on its Web site whom it didn't name, said a final decision has not been made. But the newspaper calls it the "leading scenario."
The papers have separate newsrooms but their business operations are combined under a joint operating agreement.
Leland Bassett, a spokesman for the partnership, would neither confirm nor deny the Journal report but said a news conference was planned for Tuesday.
"We do expect to announce a new, more dynamic business model, and the focus is on maintaining and strengthening two very strong and independent newspaper voices," he said.
There already are signs of change. Both newspapers have Web sites promoting Sunday and Thursday home delivery and online access on other days at a cost of $15 for three months.
Bassett said the promotion has been up for weeks. Asked if it's the sole option for subscribers, he replied: "We will be announcing ... a wide range of dynamic options. Those are still being finalized."
The Detroit market would be the largest in the country to lose seven-day home delivery if the strategy is adopted, said Rick Edmonds, a media analyst at The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I think doing nothing is really not an option," said Edmonds, noting the industrywide revenue slide. But there are risks, he said, especially if staffs are cut and loyal print readers find that a redesigned paper is just a "shell" of the old version.
"For some people, the newspaper is part of their routine," Edmonds said. "Those folks are not going to be happy if it doesn't come on Monday and Tuesday."
The Journal said home delivery would be limited to Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with an "abbreviated" print edition available at newsstands on other days. Readers would also be directed to the papers' Web sites.
The changes likely would mean major job cuts, the Journal said.
The Free Press, owned by Gannett Co., had a daily circulation of 314,554 at the end of March; 618,324 on Sunday. The News, owned by MediaNews Group Inc., had daily circulation of 178,280. It does not publish a print edition on Sunday.
Bassett said the papers recognize the "tremendous importance of digital communication and finding ways to better deliver news and information to people in ways that are most convenient to them."
Reporter M.L. Elrick, vice chairman of the Free Press unit of the Detroit Newspaper Guild, said there's anxiety in the newsroom.
"Everyone here is afraid we're going to have staff cuts," he said. "I wish I had my sources call me as often as my colleagues have called the past couple days. No one knows where this is going to end up."