Archive for Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Publishing vets seek to start newspaper in Detroit

June 10, 2009


— Detroit’s two daily newspapers have reduced home delivery because of declining revenue and increased costs. But two veteran publishers see a void to fill — one that still flops onto people’s front steps seven days a week.

Mark Stern, 63, and brother Gary Stern, 67, said Tuesday they hope to publish within 60 days the first issue of a daily newspaper serving the Detroit area. The Detroit Daily Press is expected to sell for 50 cents daily and $1 on Sundays.

They said they were working to secure contracts with two printing plants and lease office space and were looking to hire department heads for the privately funded newspaper.

Mark Stern said the Detroit Daily Press should appeal to older readers who prefer a print copy of the paper, and its primary niche will be those who want their paper home-delivered. The newspaper also will have a Web site with a brief summary of the news for nonsubscribers.

“There is a definite need here,” Mark Stern said at a news conference in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. “People are used to having a newspaper in their hand. ... That’s what we’re going to do — provide a newspaper.”

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News launched their plan March 30 to reduce home delivery to Thursday, Friday and Sunday for the Free Press and to Thursday and Friday for the News, and began also offering an electronic edition. Each paper also prints papers on the nonhome-delivery days and sells them at retail outlets.

The Detroit Media Partnership, which oversees the business operations of the Free Press and News, announced last month that the Free Press was laying off about 10 percent of its staff in response to a continued economic downturn and steep decline in advertising revenue. About 5 percent of the News’ staff and 7 percent of the partnership’s staff also were laid off.

“Major metropolitan cities across the country are seeing newspapers close, file bankruptcy, go to online-only models. My question back would be, where else do you see newspaper operations starting?” said Rich Harshbarger, vice president of consumer marketing for the Detroit Media Partnership.

“We have one of the toughest economic conditions in the country,” he said. “Our new model has the support of our advertisers and our readers. We have not lost any advertising as a result of this change. ... We continue to have the support of those businesses because of the audience we continue to deliver.”

The Sterns said they can avoid the financial problems of the existing Detroit dailies because they won’t have overhead costs such as delivery trucks, pension funds or facilities. Advertising and editorial employees will work for the newspaper, but not distributors or press operators.

“We aren’t going to get into a situation that will put us in the red,” Mark Stern said.

The brothers previously published daily newspapers in Detroit in 1964 and 1967; in New York in 1978; and in Minneapolis in 1980 when workers at those cities’ major newspapers went on strike.

Mark Stern said he published weekly entertainment publications in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for 22 years but was called out of retirement when he learned of the Detroit newspapers’ plans to scale back home delivery.

The Sterns said they expect to start with a fairly small staff and paper, but each would grow as advertising revenue increases. Mark Stern said “several hundred people” would be needed to publish the paper but declined to discuss specific staffing levels.


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