The announcements now being made in Detroit appear to confirm the earlier rumors:
Changes due to occur in first quarter 2009 include:
Expanding digital information channels that provide news and information to a variety of audiences when, where and how they want it.
Limiting newspaper home delivery to Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays while selling printed copies at newsstand seven days a week.
Providing subscribers daily access to electronic editions, exact copies of each day’s printed newspapers.
It’s not the best solution, I think. While managers told an employee meeting there would be tens of millions of dollars in savings (stemming from about 200 job cuts, newsprint savings and distribution savings), it keeps in place two separate press runs on most days while failing to differentiate the two papers more clearly. And implementation will be a nightmare, I’m afraid.
The plan looks like a compromise between the status quo and a real rationalization of the market, which had been my suggestion last week. I put forward a Thursday-Friday-Sunday Free Press coupled with a Monday-Friday News distributed free. Advantages: fewer press runs, two distinct missions and markets, greater circulation during the week, and easier to implement.
Either scenario would, by design, push more readers to electronic editions. Given the findings of a just-released Gannett poll tracking consumer news preferences, that’s a good strategy, although it will get fierce resistance from many, particularly older readers. The graph posted by Paul Gillin from this poll shows that a year from now, the Internet will surpass local newspapers as a daily news source. (And local newspapers have been behind local TV news for a long time.) Better for newspapers to go with that trend, by adopting online-first strategies, than to continue trying to fight it. That seems to be the plan in Detroit, whatever the imperfections of the print distribution scheme.