A recent article in Crain’s Detroit Business reported that weekday and Sunday circulation at Detroit’s two daily newspapers was down sharply over the last six months.
The Detroit Free Press’ circulation dropped by 12 percent and the Detroit News’ weekday circulation was down by 10 percent. As a result, the Detroit Free Press is no longer the nation’s sixth-largest Sunday newspaper; according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has dropped to ninth.
Online news organizations like AnnArbor.com and the MichiganMessenger.com have sprouting up. Some have split production between print and online versions of their newspaper, while others are exclusively online.
News organizations all over the country are seeing a steady decline in newspaper circulation. At the same time some are showing an increasing online presence.
Visitors to the News and Free Press web sites have increased steadily, with both showing more than 4 million unique hits (visits) to their sites for the month of March, according to a report in the Detroit News.
Competition to increase readership has not diminished, it has simply changed from one medium to another.
“Everything is converging on the web,” says Curt Guyette, News Editor, Metro Times Magazine. “I guess the way you distinguish yourself is you break good stories; being able to get out there and report things, and do provocative stories, then everyone else is going to be talking about it.”
“The future of news is digital, I believe that people will be getting their news in a variety of ways, but it will be coming at them,” says Stephen Frye, Online Editor, The Oakland Press. “I believe that ultimately it will be a single packet, a single unit that takes the news. Something that combines phones, IPad’s, computers, all in one small item, so news will be packaged to reach people via whatever item they have.”
Frye believes that ultimately the consumers will let companies know how they want to get their news.
“People have come to expect this back and forth with their news being delivered to them, it’s not just passively accepted,” says Frye. “Their part of it, they judge it, they rate it, they share it; so in a way, the consumer is our delivery person, the consumer is our source for ideas, for direction, for comments, for input, so were partnering with the community.”
“One way were doing this is to share with our readers other people who are writing, the bloggers,” says Frye. “I think the future of delivering news will be coming from the people who live in the community, are involved in the topics that consumers are interested in.”
In spite of the steady progression towards online news consumption not everyone is in favor of the trend.
“I still read the paper on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays; I have no desire to get news online,” says Kathy Wilson, Property Manager, The Habitat Company. “I want to sit down with the newspaper and see the printed word; if newspapers go away I will get it on TV.”
Wilson admits that she hasn’t been able to get away from online information sources entirely.
Frye believes that Twitter is a great way to find out what’s going on; and Facebook is a great way to find out how people feel about stuff. According to Frye these outlets can point you in the right direction, to ask the right questions.
“You can’t ignore them, you have to bring it into the story , but you maintain your standard journalistic qualities,” says Frye. “You confirm stuff; you don’t just report rumors based on what people are saying.”
“We can’t pretend that social media [sites] aren’t there, says Fred Vultee, Asst. Journalism Professor, Wayne State University. “Our challenge is to look at them and put our brand on them in a way that makes sense.”