By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Detroit newspaper experiment

As expected, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News announced today that they will offer home delivery only on Thursday, Friday and (Free Press only) Sunday. This deserves fuller treatment than I’m able to give it right now, though, in general, I agree with Steve Outing.

In fact, I’d go Steve one better. He says the papers ought to give their print editions away on non-home-delivery days. I suggest they come up with a five-day freebie in addition to their paid print editions, with the freebie consisting of an intelligently edited digest of what’s in the paid editions and online.

This is a move born of desperation, but it doesn’t have to be a negative. Handled right, this could be a way forward for many papers.

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  1. NewsHound

    Have you ever noticed that most people on the commuter train are reading the free daily instead of the Globe or Herald. Not everyone of course, as there are people who bring aboard the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and paid Boston papers, but the free papers appear to have much more page traffic and as such, could be better serving advertisers. There are days when a hawker is trying to sell the Herald in front of South Station without much success. Then, sometimes in the afternoon there is a battalion of people with stacks of Heralds giving them out to people entering the station and when they are free business is brisk. Too often the newspaper business overlooks the basics of bringing buyer benefits to the advertisers, and without heavy penetration into the prime market, free or paid, advertising in most papers is tremendously overpriced, and thus, the roadmap to failure.Deep penetration into the market at almost all cost, including good journalistic content, has always been the roadmap to success but somehow seems to be overlooked too much this past decade during this self-destructive path to failure.

  2. Ron Newman

    I saw a lot more Globes and Heralds on the Red and Green lines before Metro came out.One big advantage of Metro: it’s a tabloid, so you can read it without elbowing your neighbors. The London quality broadsheets have changed to tabloid form; perhaps the Globe should follow suit?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: Metro is supposedly in quite a bit of difficulty. The Times Co. ought to croak it and come up with a new freebie featuring all Globe content. The freebie should relentlessly promote and the paid edition of the Globe.

  4. NewsHound

    The free paper should have all the ads and promotions, like maybe the first paragraph or two, to buy the paid edition with the news. They need to make their advertisers successful, even in this dim economic period.

  5. NewsHound

    Newspapers need to charge less to be more profitable. But, at a million a week down the rat hole, it takes a lot of courage to inverse.

  6. acf

    If I had the Globe delivered to me at home, it might not arrive before I had to leave for work, or I might not feel like carrying it to work, but enjoy reading it at home later. Also, since I know that there are lots of freebies at the stations, I can pick one up, knowing I can toss it if I don't finish it. Personally, I read the Globe to be informed of the daily news, and papers like the Phoenix for analysis of issues not needing same day reporting. As for the Metro, it folds nicely, and I like the crossword & SuDoku.

  7. Outraged Liberal

    Personally I think this is another foolish idea by an industry floundering for solutions.Home delivery subscribers represent a reliable base — day in and day out. We pay cash, in advance, and a little extra for the privilege of having something tossed on the porch (or in the bushes).Yet many papers (are you reading this Globe?) treat subscribers like dirt.Instead of chopping home delivery, the Detroit papers should be looking for ways to boost their base.

  8. Mr Punch

    I’m a newspaper guy, but if the Globe went to three days a week home delivery, I’m sure I’d subscribe to Sunday only. (Actually a Saturday “weekend” edition makes more sense — BTW, I wonder if the Herald’s strategy is to push a regional Sunday/weekend edition in conjunction with local papers.) I don’t see how a paid newstand-only daily can be viable in competition with a free version.

  9. NewsHound

    There was a time when the milkman delivered to the house, and prior to that the ice man, vegetable man, baker, fish peddler, etc. That died off after refrigeration. Maybe the Internet is doing the same to newspapers. It does seem different, though, as many of us who check our emails in the morning still want to walk out the box and pick up a newspaper in the morning, and find a magazine in our mailbox in the afternoon.We wonder though, if Metropolitan daily newspapers will turn into weeklies some day.If there is a synergy opportunity to exploit with the Herald and other Ottaway daily newspapers, it will be in selling combination national advertising and preparing common pages with national and foreign news to run with those pages. Thus, only the local advertising and news need be exclusive for the local daily, reducing further local page composition and cost.

  10. J.A. Rice

    Last night I broke the news to my old man back in Detroit while he was reading the News with his dinner; I used to find him reading the day-old Det News with his breakfast when it was still a p.m. paper. Anyhow, he asked why the story wasn’t in the paper in his hand and I told him it would be in Wednesday’s edition. He asked what he was going to read in the John and I said having the paper three times a week is better than not having one at all.

  11. rozzie02131

    The printed DetNews and Freep will still be delivered 7 days a week, using US Mail for the 4 days that aren’t carrier-delivered. Usually for local newspapers that means same-day delivery. That should be a solution for many who like to read the news on paper.

  12. Ron Newman

    I thought I posted a comment here a few hours ago about home delivery, and now it has disappeared?

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