Detroit Free Press Shifts Lens towards Digital, Away from Print

  |  December 17, 2008   |  Comments

The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News are cutting print editions in favor of digital media, putting more resources in support of its digital efforts.

Detroit industry hasn't exactly been perceived as innovative lately, but the city's newspapers are poised for some big changes. The Detroit News and the 170-year-old Detroit Free Press are cutting print editions in favor of digital media, putting more resources in support of their digital efforts.

"Our new emphasis on digital media will give you even more options for getting your advertising message out in a variety of timely, cost-effective and targeted ways," Detroit Media Partnership noted in a message to advertisers on a Web site dedicated to the shift. The partnership manages business operations for the two papers.

Within Q1 of next year, the newspapers will add digital news channels and offer subscription-based electronic editions, while reducing frequency of its print products. Home delivery of the papers will be limited to Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, and print editions -- some just single sections -- will be sold on newsstands every day. The company also aims to place more emphasis on digital audio and video and mobile offerings.

The Gannett-owned papers follow in the footsteps of the Christian Science Monitor, which also plans to shutter its print operation altogether in favor of the Web next year.

The company chalked up what it called a "bold" decision to economics and a steady decrease in ad dollars, including classifieds. "In anticipation of this change we spoke with national and local advertisers," stated the Detroit Media Partnership "transformation" site. "Most applauded this transformative effort, which puts us in the forefront of our industry's plans to meet the changing needs of our customers."

"They flipped the switch halfway [from print to digital]," said Ken Doctor, newspaper industry pundit and lead news analyst at media market research firm Outsell. "We know if they flipped the switch the whole way they'd have lost 87 to 90 percent of their revenue," he added, noting that print revenue still accounts for the majority of the publisher's ad revenue.

Exactly how the sales force will operate in a less-print-centric environment is unclear. "The sell is going to be very different," said Doctor. "They'll have to re-jigger the sales process. How flexible will the sales force be?"

Digital revenues for the firm have been growing at a higher rate than what's average for other newspapers, said Detroit Media Partnership spokesperson Michelle Bassett. The company expects digital growth to continue, she added.

As part of Gannett's broader online initiatives, digital publications associated with The Detroit Free Press include local entertainment site, a local version of its MomsLikeMe social sites, and content from has created new content areas on its site, including its kid's health blog, Ask the Pediatrician, and The Green Life, a section featuring energy and environmental related news and content.

Anticipated growth for those niche properties "will allow [the news sites] to place more resources on selling and marketing even more of those offerings," said Bassett.

This niche content approach exemplifies Gannett's strategy for creating content that speaks to specific audiences, especially those advertisers want to reach -- moms, and high school students and their parents, for instance.

"They are gaining some understanding that niche products are gong to be more important, and they are clearly more important in their sales strategy. That's where higher CPMs are going to be," said Doctor. However, he's not convinced the company has a well-developed digital strategy in general, or when it comes to reaching audiences that attract premium advertising dollars. The Metromix and MomsLikeMe sites, for instance, are Gannett initiatives that are localized for Detroit, along with several other cities and towns.

"What we saw basically was a reiteration of current programs rather than innovation on the online side," he said.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!


Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.




    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...