Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Detroit: Freep site overwhelmed on swap's first day

At peak times, pages for digitalfreepress.com loaded slowly or not at all, the Detroit Free Press told readers this morning, a day after the Gannett paper and The Detroit News radically curtailed home delivery in favor of the Web, plus new, slimmer print editions. I had the same problem moments ago today -- but only with the Freep; the News' version loaded without a hitch.

The paper told readers in a front-page note (left) today that it's "working closely with our vendor, Tecnavia, to increase server capacity. The e-Edition is an option that many readers are enjoying and we hope to have it running much more smoothly today. We thank you for your patience.''

More than 500,000 copies of the new condensed print version got printed yesterday, and offered free as part of the first day's promotion. But Nancy Nester, 51, a program coordinator at a traumatic brain injury center who subscribed to both papers for years, didn't pick up either one. "I don’t have time to stop at the store," she told The New York Times. "That’s why I have home delivery."

Returns today termed 'huge'
Many copies of the new, slimmer print Freep were returned from racks, even though they were free, says Anonymous@7:19 a.m.:

"I'm in single-copy at Detroit newspapers and the returns this morning are HUGE from yesterday's big launch where the papers were GIVEN AWAY. All stops are not back yet, but early figures indicate more than half of News and Free Presses are coming back UNSOLD (oh, ungivenaway I guess). This despite a huge ad campaign and huge signage indicating the papers were free at the stores."

Can anyone else confirm -- and add detail? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green rail, upper right.

Hunke on delivery switch
Here's Dave Hunke, CEO of the Detroit Media Partnership joint operating agency, describing that publishes the
Freep and the News:

[Today's front page, Newseum]


  1. This is disgusting. Jim, I don't mind you letting people report this on the blog, but for you to take one, just ONE, person's report that the return papers in Detroit were huge and put that on your homepage, well that is just sad. I thought you had better judgment than that! At least wait until you get more sources. You know how people rant and make up stuff all the time on here. Thanks Jim.

  2. 10:48 am: You are not disputing this one report's accuracy, however.

    In any case, I've just started reporting on this. As I said at the bottom of the post, "Can anyone else confirm -- and add detail?" That's how I get the "more sources'' you find lacking.

  3. Oh, I agree the report is probably true. I'm just asking that you put the question out there on the blog area, not with a big headline on your homepage based on just one rumor. Once you get it confirmed (to some degree) then I have no problem with it being on the homepage. It is just a credibility thing. Pet peeve I guess. lol. Thanks again.

  4. 11:03 am: I agree with you. This was an exception to my general practice in cases like this.

    I made the exception because the "huge returns" comment was not referenced in the headline, or even the lede. In other words, it was out there on the homepage -- but not in my headline feed.

  5. OK, thanks Jim. Keep up the great work. Sorry, just in a bad mood today. You know how Gannett can do that to you.

  6. No one wants garbage.

    You suck, Jim.

  7. One thing to remember: The News and Free Press put 550,000 papers on the newsstands on Monday--that's far more than the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 single-copy papers the Detroit Media Partnership usually distributes. So it's not surprising there were returns.
    Here's a story from the paper in Livingston County, a (for Michigan) growing county in Metro Detroit:
    By Leah Boyd

    It didn't take long for Livingston County residents to empty local newsstands Monday, grabbing free copies of the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News on the first day of the newspapers' three-day-only home delivery schedule.

    With the new schedule, print editions will still be available at area newsstands daily.

    Monday, resident reactions were mixed, especially for those who currently subscribe to the papers and did not receive a newspaper at their door.

    "We missed it this morning," said Joyce Nixon of Howell, a Free Press subscriber. "My husband enjoys the paper first thing in the morning, but it's OK not to get it if it helps them. It's a nice newspaper."

    Nixon grabbed a copy of the Free Press at VG's Food Center in Howell Township, which she said will be the new routine for her household. She said she does not own a computer that would allow her to read the newspaper online.

    However, other subscribers expressed less contentment.

    "I don't like it," said Betty Cole of Genoa Township, also a Free Press subscriber. "I'm from the old school; I want to have a paper in my hand."

    Cole was too late in getting to a newsstand at the Genoa Township Meijer, where both Detroit papers were gone at noon.

    Other area subscribers don't mind — or prefer — the switch.

    "It's easier to go online," said Mary Hayek of Hamburg Township. "I don't have to worry about recycling paper, and it's just very quick and easy to do. I can go back and look if I've missed something on my own time."

    The Detroit Media Partnership offered readers across the state free newspapers Monday to mark the beginning what officials called "a new era of delivering news." In December, the partnership, which manages the business functions of both the Free Press and The News, announced home delivery would switch to Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

    The newspapers also were redesigned in layout and size, to become more compact.

    The changes were made to cut expenses as the papers as struggle with declining revenue and circulation as well as to push readers online to www.freep.com and www.detnews.com. Print editions in digital form will also be available daily.

    Detroit Media Partnership CEO David Hunke said the new formats have proven popular with advertisers. He said all ad positions in the new editions have been sold out for the first two weeks of publication.

    "This is a hybrid solution that keeps us very much in the major- market newspaper business but allows us to throw ourselves at digital solutions," Hunke said Monday at an address in Detroit.

    The Free Press is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., which also owns the Daily Press & Argus and its Web site, livingstondaily.com. MediaNews Group Inc. owns the Detroit News.

    Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Leah Boyd at (517) 552-2857 or at ldboyd@gannett.com.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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