For those who follow the newspaper industry, the announcement that the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News (it’s a JOA town) is scaling back on home delivery comes as no surprise. The Free Press will be delivered Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays starting in March, while The News will be delivered Thursdays and Fridays. Ownership of the papers (Gannett and MediaNews Group) say the way forward is to focus on digital delivery channels. Beyond the web, it’s likely the News and Free Press will explore the sorts of e-edition channels Mike McGuire and I profiled in a recent report, “Publishers Explore Digital Editions, Devices as New Channel Opportunities.” No doubt, vendors and service provides including LibreDigital, Zinio, Microsoft and Adobe are beating a path to the Motor City (does that nickname still apply?) to showcase their solutions.
Forgive me for a detour down memory lane, but I cannot help but think of my first newspaper job, 30 years ago, which was in a suburban bureau of a large metro daily. My desk backed up to one of the regional circulation managers responsible for local home delivery, trying to provide efficiency to an inherently inefficient process. It was a system solely dependent on young carriers who delivered the paper to local doorsteps by car, bike, skateboard or plain old shoe leather. These young people generally took pride in their work (often saving money for college), but when one of them called in late or sick, the harried circulation manager either had to find a replacement or hop into his car and back fill. Working in circulation is not one of publishing’s more glamorous jobs especially when the phone rang off the hook with the complaint, “Why is my paper late?”
At my second newspaper job, I became close friends with one of the circulation managers and on slow news days, I would hop in his car and go on “bundle runs” to deliver papers across the region for carriers to who called in sick or were MIA. Needless to say, I quickly became an expert in Snohomish County geography. By the same token, I also realized a carrier’s job was a tough one, rising early in the cold, dark and wet climes of the Pacific Northwest to delivery a consumer’s primary channel for local news.
I find no solace in the adage that “all good things must come to an end.” I also find no solace that our prediction from Predicts 2009: The Media Industry Looks for Equilibrium that states “by year-end 2009, at least three iconic daily newspapers located in the U.S. and Europe will cease print publication” is likely to come true.