It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Some questions on the new seven-day delivery for the Detroit Free Press and News

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(Note: I was going to use this post as my first week review at the Grand Rapids Press. But seeing how something else a little more timely popped up, I will save that post for later this week.)

Waking up this morning, I heard some news that makes me believe the economy as a whole is turning around.

The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, the two major newspapers I rely the most on, announced that seven-day delivery would start back up again in select areas in metro-Detroit via independent contractors on the days the News and Free Press don’t already deliver.

By no means is this a reversion to the old way where deliverers would receive their instructions from the papers and go from there. This will essentially have independent contractors (in other journalistic terms, “freelancers”) receive several copies of the News and Free Press, most likely in the morning, and have them be sole proprietor in distributing them on the days the News and Free Press don’t already deliver – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

This is a good sign. I wrote about the change in my previous blog when it was announced, and wasn’t sure what it meant. Now, being older and slightly more mature on the subject matter, this is a step in the right direction for newspapers. As good as this is for the customer that wants seven-day delivery, several questions come to mind regarding the service:

First, as awesome as home delivery is seven days a week is, who will be responsible when a problem with delivery pops up, the independent contractor or the newspaper? I would assume the independent contractor would be. Which could prove problematic to the News and Free Press. If there’s a major delivery problem, even if the newspaper could discipline these distributors, it may be too late if the customer has cancelled their subscription. I don’t know what type of screening process the newspapers will have, but here’s hoping it’s extensive to insure customers don’t get frustrated.

Another question that comes up is an issue of timing. Once those newspapers get dropped off at the contractors home, is there a deadline on when they get delivered, or is it whenever the contractor can do it? This seems to remind of when I home delivered the Royal Oak/Clawson Mirror once a week. Whenever I was able to deliver the newspapers, usually after school, is when they were delivered. There was no consistency with when people got their papers. While that was okay with a small weekly, the largest paper in the state will cause some different reactions if the paper isn’t on the porch before work. That’s when most people want their paper, and hopefully the News and Free Press have very high standards when hiring these contractors.

If anyone from the companies stumbles across this post, I’d love to know the answers somehow – a comment, or include them in a Q-and-A on the respective websites when it comes closer to the change.

The Great Lakes Bay Edition flag on its first day of publishing, March 30, 2010. The edition also began including some news from Midland in the publication, and is circulated there as well.

These aren’t the only newspapers in Michigan that have seen increased change in the last year. The Flint Journal, owned by Booth Newspapers (the same company that owns the Grand Rapids Press, whom I work for), decreased publishing from seven days to three last year, and in late March, added a fourth day, meaning the Journal now publishes Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Bay City Times and Saginaw News, another pair of Booth papers, went down from seven days to three days at the same time as the Flint Journal, but created a joint Tuesday publication, the Great Lakes Bay Edition, which publishes for the Saginaw Bay region on Tuesdays.

The increase in circulation and home delivery is a good sign. Waking up this morning and reading the note from Free Press publisher Paul Anger gave me a breath of relief. It shows that advertisers are beginning to come back to print products, meaning the money is there to spend. Here’s hoping in December that one company has enough money to hire a reporter fresh off graduating college and two big-city internships.

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Written by David Veselenak

May 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm

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