Newspaper Change Difficult But Necessary

Change is never easy.  But, sometimes it’s just flat-out necessary.  

That’s my overall take on the sweeping changes announced today by The Detroit Media Partnership, the company that runs the business operations of Gannett’s Detroit Free Press and Media News Group’s Detroit News.

The changes include a cutback to three day per week home delivery, an available subscription to an online version of the print edition and enhancements to the Web sites of each “paper” that will include more video storytelling.  A column by Free Press Editor Paul Anger and a letter to readers from Detroit News Editor and Publisher Jon Wolman help put it all into more simple terms.  

Since Don and I started this blog, I have been pleading for change in the newspaper business, in order to save it. I have been begging newspaper operators to figure out how to make money delivering content on the Internet.  I have suggested that they are making mistakes by being too married to their print product and not making the most of the online platform.  

All of that said, I really enjoy reading the newspaper every morning.  It will be a part habit to break.  But, I’m on my Blackberry and on my laptop all day consuming news as it is reported online.  Doing more of that will enhance my life, personally and professionally. 

The Detroit Media Partnership made a bold business decision, just like we have challenged them to do.  I can’t say right now if it was the right one. But, at least they are showing guts and trying something different in the face of financial disaster.  Also, while they may have killed some aspects of their traditional business., they may have saved what’s left of journalism in this market – something we should all appreciate.

Here are a few hopes I want to share for the new model:

1) I hope they do more news.  There’s less of an excuse now to “not have room” for a story they want to do.  The Web platform gives them greater space for depth and variety.  If there’s no room in the print edition, so what?  Put it online.

2) I hope they get their headlines right, all the time.  One of the great aspects of reading a newspaper is to scan information and choose the most interesting stories to read as attractive content catches your eye.  Online, you rely on headlines to click, then are given one story at time.  The headlines better be good, and accurate, as they will determine what you read and what you don’t.

3)  I hope the Free Press and News will reach out to seniors, a growing segment of Michigan’s population and big consumers of news. What better community service could the Detroit Media Partnership provide than to provide computer and Internet training to seniors who are fearful of technology, but still want their information?

4) I hope competition is fierce.  The good news in all of this is that there are still two media outlets competing for news.  No newsgathering staff face cuts because of these announcements.  Let’s hope they take their competition as seriously online as they did in the heyday of print – that’s good news for consumers (and PR pros too).