Increasingly, we’re seeing pressure on newspaper publishers to forgo seven-day delivery. The idea is they’d refocus on the development of profitable niche sites and the Thursday, Friday and Sunday editions packed with retail advertising. Under this concept, the other days in the week would have online access to daily replica e-editions and/or smaller print editions for newsstands, with no home delivery.
This is exactly what they’re doing in Detroit, a Joint Operating Agreement town with titles owned by Gannett (the Detroit Free Press) and MediaNews Group (The Detroit News). The plan is to have the Free Press provide three-day delivery (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), while The News gets two-day delivery (Thursday and Friday).
The niche sites that will get some of the papers’ leftover attention, all from Gannett, include MetroMix, MomsLikeMe and HighSchoolSports.net. There will also apparently be other products developed in partnership with Ideo, the design consultancy that has also done some work recently — never adopted — with a Yellow Pages company.
Former Knight Ridder exec Ken Doctor, in a great post, quotes Detroit Media partnership execs as contending that the current model is “unsustainable.” Apparently, they’d rather go cold turkey than face death by a thousand cuts.
There are pros and cons with the cuts, notes Doctor. There will be some savings in production costs, even with the sunk costs of producing a newspaper. And much of the advertising revenues might get retained, since advertisers are mostly attracted to the big retail days. Doctor cites estimates that papers will need to keep 75 percent to 90 percent of existing ad revenues to be sustainable.
But circulation, which accounts for 20 percent of revenues, will probably decrease. And subscriptions might take a hit as a partial week gives people less of a reason to subscribe.
What really won’t work are the Hail Mary hopes that the newspapers can save readership and add revenue with the daily electronic editions, predicts Doctor. “These editions, powered by companies like LibreDigital (nee Newsstand), Olive Software and NewspaperDirect, have had greater success in captive Newspapers in Education programs than in consumer acceptance. They are essentially counter-intuitive products: older readers who may like the idea of ‘reading the paper’ in its traditional format don’t like reading online; younger readers who like reading online find it nonsensical to read yesterday’s news — and pay for it — when they can news of the moment free online.”