In a bold but risky move aimed at ensuring their survival in the digital age, The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press are reducing home delivery to the three days a week most popular with advertisers _ Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Slimmed-down newspapers, sold at regular prices, will be available in news racks and convenience stores the other four days.
The Detroit publishers hope to cut costs significantly, without sacrificing newsroom staff, to survive a recession that has exacerbated losses from ads shifting to the Internet. Millions of dollars in advertising have eroded over the past year in a city and state being hammered by foreclosures, high unemployment and the near-collapse of the auto industry.
More than 80 newspapers in the country, in smaller markets, have dropped at least one publication day since last year. Other newspapers in Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin are on the verge of similar reductions in frequency. A few have gone online-only.
Detroit is trying a hybrid: keeping daily publication, but cutting back on its commitment to serve homes every day.
The newspapers hope that by nurturing their ink-stained legacy, and reaping only partial savings in production and delivery, they can keep enough revenue and staff to grow beyond print and become profitable on the Internet, cell phones and other mobile gadgets. "They are accelerating greatly the print-to-digital transformation, and they are taking a great chance there," said Ken Doctor, media analyst with Outsell Inc.
The biggest risk is in breaking readers' newspaper habits, he said. If readers realize they can get by without a newspaper at the doorstep four days of the week, they might conclude they don't need it delivered on the other three days. Circulation could drop, and with it, ad revenue.