Monday, March 23, 2009

There Goes Another Newspaper

It seems like these days, we're passing along word of a newspaper dying about once every two days or so.

While this one isn't local, it has Northeast Ohio ties.

Readers won't be able to pick up the Ann Arbor News from newsstands or their doorsteps in that Michigan city after July, as the 174-year-old paper will (mostly) shut down its presses.

Echoing the now-dead Dead Trees edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ann Arbor News owner Booth Newspapers will replace the paper with "a Web-based, media company called", according to publisher Laurel Champion in a story on the paper's current website.

Starting in July, the paper's newly-reminted website will, apparently, still manage to activate the presses for Thursday and Sunday print editions of "". Presumably, you can credit the traditional advertising supplements for that.

And things aren't much better at the Ann Arbor paper's sister Booth newspapers elsewhere in Michigan, according to this from the Bay City Times:

Beginning June 1, The Times, The Saginaw News and The Flint Journal will publish intensely local editions on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, which research shows are the highest readership days for newspapers.

Booth is not announcing how many jobs will be lost. though the Ann Arbor paper's publisher notes:

Champion, who will be executive vice president of, told News employees they can apply for positions with the new company, although job losses are inevitable.

"We have an extremely talented staff at The Ann Arbor News, and they have done a tremendous job through very difficult times," Champion said in a letter to readers. "There is nothing they did or didn't do that would have sustained our seven-day print business model."

And here's your Cleveland connection.

The Michigan-based Booth chain is actually an arm of Advance Publications, which - ta da! - owns the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

And a former PD executive, ex-chief marketing officer Matt Kraner, has been announced as the president and chief executive officer of

You might recall that Advance threatened to shut down its Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger, until it got concessions from its employees.

And the Plain Dealer ended up on a controversial "10 endangered big city papers" list that got incorrectly attributed to Time Magazine, but was actually the product of the "" website.

In that list, the author predicted that the Cleveland paper would close or go online-only by the end of 2010.

With PD owner Advance converting its Ann Arbor paper to a website, does that mean anything for the local paper's future?

We'd guess it isn't necessarily connected.

The Michigan announcements today mean Advance is indeed interested in trying to form a new model without newsprint, at least in some markets...though even the best online site is probably going to have a LOT fewer resources than a full-fledged paper that's sold to readers.

But for all the concern about Northern Ohio's economy, it's nearly vibrant compared to Michigan's economy.

he Flint/Saginaw/Bay City region, in particular, has been in a fast economic free fall since the late 1980's, when Michael Moore went after former General Motors CEO Roger Smith in "Roger and Me", and the current state of the reeling auto industry is making that worse.

So, we're still not on the "PD will fold or go online only next year" bandwagon.

But with newspapers continuing to die almost daily, and a poor overall economy...Big Print is going to have to figure out how, or if, it survives...


jk said...

The Plain Dealer has posted a story on its announcement today.

Scott said...

I'm not sure I get what Booth is doing in Ann Arbor.

It seems to me that even if the News has been losing money, the competitive landscape is about to change dramatically with the impending end of 7-day home delivery by the Detroit papers.

If I were running the AA News, I'd at least wait and see whether it's possible to grab some of that readership, and maybe even expand my footprint east into the western edge of Wayne County.

This is just scary news, though, no matter how you slice it. Ann Arbor should be the one place in Michigan that's (relatively) most immune to the economic disaster there - it's not as though the U of M is going out of business, after all, and its hometown should be a place where people still want to read a daily newspaper.

I suspect Ann Arbor becomes the biggest city in America (for now!) to completely lose a daily paper...anyone know otherwise?