Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ann Arbor News to Shift to Online-Only

Sounds a bit like that old song by Queen: Another One Bites the Dust.

174-year-old Ann Arbor News will shift to online-only model in July. I wonder why, now that decision has been made, the publisher, Advance Publications, is waiting that long to switch over.

The shift leaves the college town with no regular newspaper. I'm sure the college paper will step up as will the local alternative weekly.

Which leads to an important question: when mainstream media moves to online-only, where does that leave alternative weeklies? What are they alternatives to now in an online-only world? I guess as a produced-on-paper publication, alternative weeklies serve as the alternative to online-only. But it's not much.

Meanwhile, Advance owns other papers in Michigan, and they are apparently all shifting to online-only. That leaves a gap for any organization looking to reach suburban Michigan residents. Of course there will still be the online-only websites, but who knows if local readers will log onto www.annarbornews.com or will click to larger market papers, like the Detroit Free-Press and Detroit News, both of whom will shortly stop printing a full week's paper.

The shift to online-only is gathering steam (an outdated reference, of course). The problem is that no one has proven that online-only really works -- for publishers, who are giving up 90% of their revenue stream; for advertisers, and for readers.

As they used to say on radio drama, stay tuned tomorrow...

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