By paulgillin | November 19, 2009 - 11:44 pm - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Google, Hyper-local, Paywalls, Solutions

Detroit Daily PressAfter nearly losing its two daily newspapers a year ago, Detroit is actually adding one to the stable. The Detroit Daily Press will launch next week with daily newsstand distribution at first and home delivery scheduled to begin in about a month. This is actually the title’s second appearance; it originally appeared in 1964 and lasted for about four months before folding. The owners, who said they came out of retirement to take another shot at the Detroit market, plan to distribute 200,000 daily copies and charge a fraction of what their competitors charge for newsstand sales and advertising space.

Brothers Mark and Gary Stern say they have enough capital to make a go of it for two months and need 150,000 paying subscribers to break event after that. In light of that short timeframe, the quote in Editor & Publisher seems a little odd: ” “This is a permanent situation for us.” However, the brothers say they have raised private capital and have a much more efficient operating model that does away with unions and captive printing presses, so perhaps they have cash on hand to last much longer. The operation will employ about 60 people. It has recruited several veterans of the Detroit newspaper industry.

The Detroit market was roiled early this year when the Free Press and the News scaled back their home delivery operations to three and two days per week, respectively, in the name of saving costs. Few details have emerged on the financial success of the experiment. Both saw circulation declines in the first half of this year, but well within the average range for the industry

Local writer Isak Dinesen notes that the Stern brothers are Detroit natives and so may have an affinity for their local area. She also points to a Facebook page and online mockup (above) of the new title. The promotional language advertises “paper delivered seven days,” which is a direct reference to its competitors’ reduced schedule.


The question of whether readers are willing to pay for news appears to come down to how you ask the question. Alan Mutters tallies up recent research and finds that the percentage of Americans who say they’d crack open their wallets ranges from a low of 20% (Forrester Research) to a high of 53% (American Press Institute). The amounts vary widely, too. We’d suggest the wording of the question and the makeup of the sample group has a lot to do with the variations. That and the fact that Internet research is inherently unreliable. Forrester at least has been doing this for a long time.

Jeff Jarvis hits the nail on the head again with an essay about the new business model for news organizations. He observes that the cost model for a successful online title is about 10% that of a print property. In other words, there’s money to be made online, but requires the cost structure to be radically changed. The problem is that most newspaper publishers  can’t stomach the idea of eliminating 90% of their staff. Of the major metro dailies that have closed this year, only one — the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — has successfully shifted it is cost model to match the online revenue opportunities. Recent reports have indicated that the P-I actually is profitable online, although few details are available.

It isn’t human nature to shoot nine out of every 10 employees. So for many publishers, it’s easier simply to go under completely. That’s why Jarvis argues that bankruptcy is a bit of a magic potion. It’s an opportunity to get out from under debt, blow up the unions and completely restructure the way an organization works. Unfortunately, he correctly points out that those publishers that have gone through the bankruptcy procedure — which is most of them — have mostly failed to do more than trim a few expenses here and there. That isn’t going to save them; it will just postpone the inevitable.

The New York Times will end its Times Extra aggregation experiment in two weeks, about a year after launching the feature. The company insists that the decision isn’t a backtrack from the goal of aggregating outside content but rather than the content would now be presented within stories rather than on a dedicated site.

The New York Sun, a weekdaily that shut down a year ago, has been rejuvenated online. It will be resurrected for a 20-week run featuring crosswords from famous puzzle editor Peter Gordon for $1 per week. No word on whether management will decide whether to continue publishing the paper, but we expect that revenue will be an important factor.

BusinessWeek is reportedly set to lay off 100 people in the wake of its acquisition by Bloomberg LP. It appears that layoffs will be across the board, with employees who are in the line of fire being asked to submit resumes, news clips, and 250-word statements about their qualifications for continuing to work at the esteemed business publisher. BusinessWeek becomes property of Bloomberg on Dec. 1.

The Associated Press laid off 57 union workers, including 33 editors. The newswire is seeking to cut its personnel expenses by 10% by the end of the year.

Citizen journalism startup AllVoices will start paying professional journalists to cover beats, although the compensation is a meager $250 for now. The site has more than 200,000 registered members, most of whom contribute their work for free. AllVoices’ CEO Amra Tareen said the program is intended to recognize that these are “tough times for many journalists as news organizations downsize” and noted that reporters could earn more than the basic fee if their stories generate a lot of traffic. We profiled AllVoices last year.

And Finally…

Go to the basic Google home page and start typing a question. See what the Genius Google, in its near-infinite wisdom, thinks you’re asking when it provides all those “helpful” suggestions in a drop-down box. It turns out that certain kinds of queries generate amusing suggestions. For example, type “Is there any” (sans quotation marks) and see what Google suggests you really mean. (Okay, so we stole that from Let’s get creative… Type in “why will” or “how come” or even “why is it that” and see what you come up with. The results are so strange that this feels like a big practical joke on Google’s part, but it does lend itself to endless experimentation.



This entry was posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 11:44 pm and is filed under Facebook, Fake News, Google, Hyper-local, Paywalls, Solutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. November 20, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

    Those Google results are…memorable, to say the least! Thanks for the pointer!

    Posted by Rebecca
  2. November 20, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

    To paraphrase Chris Rock: “Seems you can’t keep a disco open for more than two month. Grand Openin’ Grand Closin’

    Meanwhile, Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s nook are back ordered for 2009 with a month to go before Christmas.

    News (and by extension, journalism,) is a fine profession to go into.

    Smudging sheets of dead trees with ink, meh, not so good.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  3. November 20, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

    Lets you think the troubles of ad supported media are confined to the print medium, feast you eyes on this article.

    NBC is teetering on the brink as GE is thinking very seriously of selling its stake out to ComCast.

    This is merely the first card to fall and, like any house of cards, once it starts, it all comes apart.

    As loath as I am to stick my neck out, I predict that within the year the switch to digital OTA signals will have been rendered moot.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  4. November 21, 2009 @ 3:49 am

    Going digital is the way to survival by cutting out all the material, printing, storage and delivery costs. Reporting and editorial costs can be met via low prices if the number of subscriptions is high enough.

    The real problem is filling the digital (or print) version with valuable content.

    Right now my hometown paper (one of the top 25) is giving us a month’s free subscription to try to get us back as subscribers. Trouble is the paper is so untrustworthy and one-sided that it’s not worth even a minor sum–like $2.00 or $3.00/mo. Why pay for something you always have to keep checking up on? After two weeks of free delivery I think I’ve read parts of 4 or 5 stories. Even free, it’s not worth reading.

    Posted by T D
  5. November 21, 2009 @ 10:01 am

    this article in the NY Times shows that the owner of the Daily News doesn’t understand what’s happened.

    His paper is only that; tomorrow’s fish wrapper

    Its a 1:N throwback in a world which has become N:M.

    Mass media has its place, but that place is not carrying the freight for businesses because they want more that plain, unconnected paper can possibly deliver.

    Forget about ad-supported content.

    Its been dead since before Y2k and its currently thrashing about in its death throws.

    Deal with it

    The only survivors will be those who can add value to the packaging of data and turn it into information, otherwise businesses don’t need you.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  6. November 21, 2009 @ 10:49 am

    I have just noticed that something that started with the record industry, (the breakup of albums [the unit of legal commerce of the music industry, {they make record deals not i>song deals,}] into individual songs,) is precisely what is bedeviling the news industry.

    The comment by T D above is specially apropos. “After two weeks of free delivery I think I’ve read parts of 4 or 5 stories. Even free, it’s not worth reading.

    The news that we get from a paper is an aggregate, a cement of stuff we consider news mixed with other stuff we don’t care about; like horoscopes for non-mystics, reviews of movies which aren’t targeted at you, real-estate news when you’re not looking for a house, and news about a topic you don’t give a crap about.

    But with the internet, we Google what we want.

    We don’t want to support stuff we don’t care about in order to get the stuff we do care about.

    Its a question of efficiency and its innate in human beings to seek out the most efficient source of whatever interests them.

    Given that the direction that business is headed in is clear, (using the N:M internet to subsume the 1:N nature of the media,) and that the focus is much sharper, (down to individual news items and explorations of segments of the news,) the rise of specialized media is inevitable.

    Its a question of monetization and there is a need for an intermediary for handling subscriptions and micro payments for individual news items.

    Business still needs to build buzz for its product, earned P.R. as opposed to paid advertising, but its much more efficient if that can occur on the linked internet on specialized web-sites.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  7. November 22, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

    Bring the pain, msbpodcast. “Every day I look in the mailbox for my OJ prize…NOTHING!” – Chris Rock

    Posted by Quixotic Chick