Re-inventing the wheel in Detroit; a "crap sandwich"

Dateline: Fri 19 Dec 2008

Thanks to reader Tom Butters who sent this, ahem, timely press release out of Detroit:

Basically, the headline says it all, in true gushy PR total bullshit fashion:

"BOLD TRANSFORMATION OF DETROIT FREE PRESS AND THE DETROIT NEWS LEAD NATION AND INDUSTRY WITH EXPANDED DIGITAL OFFERINGS; LAUNCH OF NEW MAGAZINE; COLORFUL, EASY-TO-USE NEWSSTAND EDITIONS"

Oh, Lawksamercyme. What it comes down to is that the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News are (once again) launching a new digital package, based on, what else? research designed "to understand how the people in metro Detroit use media," as if we have not all heard that before.

The result for these papers, the Free Press owned by Gannett and the News by MediaNews, (not both Gannett papers, as stated here previously) is that home delivery is now available only Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Of course the new "package" includes all the old bells and whistles, already in place at the Star and elsewhere and hardly saving the day: the boring Metromix for your entertainment needs, the sad momslikeme site, ask the pediatrician, high school sports, yawn.

This is what the seasoned and articulate Nancy Nall -- a former columnist at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, now a nationally known blogger, living in Detroit -- has dubbed the "crap sandwich."

On her blog, she talks about the real problem for newspapers: it's not circulation, it is revenue. Advertising generates revenue, she postulates, and papers are still not getting the drill: online advertising is way too much of a bargain, and it often is not directed at its local community.

Her conclusion:

"I can't think of the last time I checked a Detroit News or Free Press website and was served an ad for a bakery down the street, offering two-for-one specials on Christmas fruitcake; are the ad staffs being trained to make such sales? Are they honestly and truly trying everything? Or is this just a desperation Hail Mary pass no one expects to succeed, to be followed in a few months by a sad news conference about an unforgiving business climate, etc.?"

OK, it's a downer. But as Hendy says, the business model no longer works. Many papers (as Nall points out) spent millions of dollars in recent years for new printing presses. Now, they can't afford to print the thing.

This will come to the Indianapolis Star as well; it's just a matter of time. "The final solution for newspapers? Eliminate newspapers." How sad and how unfortunately true.

Anyhow, thanks to Tom for the latest out of the Motor City, and thanks to Nancy Nall for, as always, a refreshing take. Here is her link:

http://nancynall.com/

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