The decision to abandon seven-day home delivery in Detroit was not a bold strategic initiative but a last-ditch effort to save two failing newspapers, according to one former Gannett executive.
“The choice was to shut down or to try to salvage the newspaper,” said the former executive, who was familiar with the months-long deliberations earlier this year that resulted in the decision to scrap home delivery four days a week at the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.
The radical plan, which is likely to cost some 190 people their jobs by March, was not as much a carefully conceived business decision as it was an act of desperation, said the executive, who declined to be identified because he did not want to compromise continuing business relationships.
“They cut all they could,” he continued, recounting high-level management discussions that took place over the summer. “We saw the papers as continuing to deteriorate – and that was before Lehman Brothers” collapsed and the global economy melted down.
Home delivery will be confined to Thursday, Friday and Sunday by the end of March under the plan announced today by the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News and the agency that handles ad sales, production and delivery for both competing papers.
“Compact” print editions of both papers will be available at retail outlets on days when home delivery is not available, said the executives announcing the changes A digital replica of the compact print edition will be delivered to subscribers via email for $12 a week.
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Alan D. Mutter is perhaps the only CEO in Silicon Valley who knows how to set type one letter at a time. Mutter began his career as a newspaper columnist and editor. Mutter now is a Managing Partner of Tapit Partners.