Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Detroit | Q.: When is a newspaper like a pizza?

A.: When it's a struggling daily in Detroit.

From today's Detroit News:

The Gannett-controlled Detroit Media Partnership is offering $5,000 to an individual or group of nonemployees with the winning idea for helping the News and the GCI-owned Detroit Free Press increase their audiences or better serve the community. [Updated at 6:07 p.m. ET: Here's the Freep's story on the contest.]

The contest called IdeaQuest also will give another $5,000 for a winning employee idea. The entries -- due by March 31 -- will be winnowed down to five finalists through an online vote.

Contestants can submit ideas that would help the company improve news coverage either in print or digitally, help others in the community, save time and money for customers or do business more effectively.

The public will vote on the best employee and nonemployee ideas from April 1 to April 14 at the IdeaQuest 2011 website.

The top five vote-getters in each category will each give a presentation to a panel of three judges: Domino's Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle, DMP CEO Susie Ellwood and Myron Maslowsky, senior vice president of group finance and administration for USA Today.

[Images: Domino's, Newseum, DMP]


  1. One more stupid use of Gannett marketing dollars. Enough said. I think this comment speaks volumes that maybe the managment is this hole need to go.

  2. So encouraging feedback from your employee and customer bases is not worth anything? I applaud those in Detroit for being brave enough to make this effort. They were brave enough a year or two ago to fundamentaly change their delivery structure to ensure their future -- albeit in probably the toughest markets in the country and company. Bravo Motown! Seeking input from customers and employees is exactly the right thing to do -- as long as you act on it. Wish others at GCI would see the wisdom of this.

  3. So Jim, you post the link to The Detroit News but use Free Press art? Are you slipping up or just too lazy to find the link to the Free Press coverage?

    I agree with 5:47 -- as long as they use the ideas that are generated -- it's a great concept. And they are seeking input from an outside CEO who is credited with turning around a national pizza chain and gaining market share. Lots can be learned here.

  4. I used the Detroit News link because that was the one a reader sent to me.

  5. One issue here is that we're dealing Gannett. If any reader/employee suggestion should cost money, like more news coverage, it will go nowhere.

    Gannett is not interested in giving better service. It is interested in making more money. Unfortunately, the bean counters in corporate have not caught on to the idea that in the long run one equals the other.

    Then again, maybe Dubow and Martore are engaged in a print countdown. They haven't shared the year of print's demise, but they're aiming toward it.

  6. Um, is this the reinvented DIG? The innovation team in Detroit. Excellent job. Just close this piece of shit paper down already.

  7. Myron must really love his job now. This guy gas been passed over for any promotionmand now he is judging newspaper contests!!!

  8. Myron's role will be to determine the following:

    -Was the cheapest paper used in the presentation?

    -Could the contestant have used a staple instead of a paper clip to bind the hard copies? (use of a binding machine calls for automatic disqualification).

    -Was company time used by the contestant to prepare the presentation? Can that time be docked from the contestant's next paycheck?

    -Can the cash award be deducted from the contestant's next paycheck...sort of like the transition pay scheme.

    -What was the final ROI on the winning idea? What will the total cost of ownership be for the company? Do we have to protect the company's copyrights or does Michigan law allow for the contestant to keep the idea as intellectual property?

  9. I really have nothing against this, except how does giving $5,000 to someone who reads a paper get information on how to get subscriptions from those who do not read the paper. We are getting information from the choir, and not reaching out to the increasing mass of people who have turned away from newspapers and what they are reporting.

  10. Excellent point, 8:50 a.m., excellent point. Perhaps Gannett really doesn't want to hear it. The company's leaders know they've damaged the papers, some to the point where they'll never recover, AND THEY DON'T CARE.

    Print is Gannett's biggest source of revenue right now, BUT GANNETT HAS GIVEN UP ON IT. THE COURSE IS SET ON MARKETING NOT NEWS.

  11. The key question we need answered is why are we no longer appealing to the masses in America, and what can we do to change to make you want to buy and read this newspaper. The consultants have told corporate that content doesn't matter, and that idea has been translated in our paper in diluting coverage and dramatic losses of circulation. I think the answer really lies in content, but I am willing to hear alternative ideas. I think this pap we are now serving up has so pissed off readers they will never come back.

  12. 10:21 a.m.....You are absolutely right! I know people who subscribed to the Journal News for decades and they all cancelled over the last two years. Why? Because the paper had less local news and was costing more.

    On the Rockland side the situation is even worse. There are times you'll find that most of the front page is either Westchester or regional. Why buy it if you're looking for Rockland news?

    The issue here is that corporate scalped the papers of their identities and their ties to the community.

    Neuharth ran off with the foundation money that was supposed to benefit things like Little League, soup kitchens, and after-school programs so he could build the Nauseum.

    Corporate lackeys dreamed up useless programs like News 2000 at the expense of real news coverage.

    It got to the point in Westchester where the editors were more focused on what the front page looked like, than what was written on it!

    And of course Gannett's leadership like other publishers ignored the advent of the Internet. They were fat, gray haired country clubbers who grew rich milking the daylights out of their cash-cow newspapers.

  13. Replying to 10:13: The course in this company is hardly set on marketing - they've pretty much all but eliminated nearly every marketing position at the site level. This company has absolutly no notion of being a marketing company, not even close.

    That said, exactly WHAT this company is trying to be anymore is anyone's guess, and certainly the McLean leadership has no idea either.

  14. You really know that leadership has run out of ideas when they resort to pranks like this. Guess $5,000 costs less than consultants.

  15. If this survey had any value to management decision-making, they would have made it a $50,000 prize or a $500,000 prize for finding the magic solution to what people want. Putting such a picayune amount on the prize shows how much worth they will place it what a survey like this finds. How much do they pay for these consultants for their silly surveys?

  16. Naysayers generally have nothing to say. Why aren't any of you giving them the benefit of doubt on this? At least they are doing SOMETHING. Some of you actually consider this a prank? Really? Wow. Guess it's better that you are contributing to the dialogue and skipping a smoke break.

    Jim -- the irony isn't lost that you have a google ad from Domino's delivered. I hope you follow this with interest, like a reporter and track the results.

  17. Just learned of one additional requirement from Myron: the color copier must not be used in the printing of your idea. Black and white is 47.3% cheaper.

  18. Feedback from customers is one thing. Having them do YOUR JOB for you is another.

  19. Anyone spot a closed-loop here: We pay consultants for surveys showing what readers want, and now we are asking them what they want.

  20. Of course the REAL way to improve the newspapers/"information centers"/"media hubs"/"multi-platform content providers" is first, stop all the crap phrases like the ones I just listed. They are pathetic.

    Second - Improvement comes only with solid local content. And that comes with a price... ironically not a really high price either. Staff. People. Real journalists.

    Long term improvement comes with strong content, which draws advertisers and readers. It is so simple that corporate bean counters are clueless to comprehend that the way to make more money - which everyone, even journalists, can agree is important - is to spend more money, not less.

    With less, you get less. And when you provide less to your customers, they value you less. And that puts you at risk when times are tough. People cancel what they don't need, or perceive isn't important to them.

    And the Gannett newspaper is falling into that "not important to me" category. And no amount of layoffs or cost-cutting will reverse that.

    Only a massive infusion of spending will make the papers worth subscribing to. And that sure ain't happening!

  21. The irony regarding Myron, of course, is that he makes a TRUCKLOAD of money. Doesn't know much besides accounting, but he's well compensated for that.

  22. 8:22,
    Perhaps if Myron really wants to cut expenses at USA TODAY, he could include his own salary. Paying him a lot of money for that job is mindless. I guess the company feel they can spread out the cost more by having him judge reader contests.

  23. Is it really a better strategy to ignore what our customers and employees think? Isn't that how we got into this situation in the first place?


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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