Monday, January 11, 2010

Detroit Daily Press launch cost "several hundred thousand dollars", remain shuttered for now

Update: I suppose this has nothing to do with "New Media", but I find this saga too interesting to ignore.

It was supposed to be a brand new newspaper to fill the gap created when the News and Free Press cut back on home delivery, but now the Detroit Daily Press saga has become a soap opera.

Launched back on November 23 of last year, the Daily Press announced it was suspending publishing within a week.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, lack of advertising, lateness of our press runs and lack of distribution and sales, we find it necessary to temporarily suspend publication of the Detroit Daily Press until after the (first) of the year," the publishers Mark and Gary Stern said in a statement.

"Once we can fix these things, we plan to be back stronger and more organized when we return. This is just a bump in the road and not the end of the Detroit Daily Press."

But alas . . .

In a new statement the publishers lament that they will not be able to relaunch the newspaper, blaming union demands.
"We've done everything possible to re-launch the Detroit Daily Press but the circulation issues persist," said Mark Stern, Co-publisher. "We tried to get union support and provide jobs. But the unions' demands would make it impossible for us to exist".

Some have questioned the financing of a publisher who could only hold out a week. In a Crain's Detroit Business story Bill Shea reports that he was told by Mark Stern that the new launch spent "several hundred thousand dollars" on the launch. Though that may have seemed like a well financed launch to the Sterns it seems like pennies -- especially considering that Editor & Publisher reported that the new paper planned to distribute 200,000 copies in a three county area of the first edition.

Ultimately one has to question the logic of a newspaper launch that is not online-only in this environment. Unless one has millions of dollars to throw at the venture, going all electronic seems a better business plan.  But, of course, the Sterns saw home delivery as the big opportunity when the major papers announced their decision to limit home delivery to Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Of the plans of the News and Free Press, Alan Mutter wrote on his blog that "the reported plan to cut home delivery to just a few days a week at the Detroit dailies does not merely tweak the classic newspaper model. It eviscerates it, perhaps mortally."

So far, however, the plan to compete with the Detroit dailies hasn't worked out as planned. This is not the first time, however, the Stern brothers have tried to publish a newspaper in Detroit. In 1964 their paper lasted all of 122 days.

Despite its chronically poor economy, which this Detroiter experienced my first 22 years, Detroit has always been a truly great newspaper town. Before forming a JOA in '88 (I believe) the afternoon Detroit News and the morning Detroit Free Press were competitive and popular newspapers that fought against each other not only in the city but across the state. As a child we often subscribed to both papers. Before heading off to college to get my J degree I was an intern and Junior Achievement volunteer working to advise inner city high school students out of the Free Press offices. I also my brother-in-law worked at various times at one or the other newspaper as a reporter and copy editor, as well.