By: Mark Fitzgerald
HAVING SEEN ITS circulation plummet since joining the Detroit Free Press in a joint operating agency, the Detroit News is now trying morning newsstand sales to pump up readership.
With its July 11 editions, the News became available in the morning in stores and vending machines in metro Detroit and outstate Michigan.
The change means Gannett Co.’s News and Knight-Ridder Inc.’s Free Press will be available side by side early mornings for the first time since the two joined in a JOA in November 1989.
In addition, the News will offer morning home delivery to subscribers in outstate Michigan.
However, in the six-county Metro Detroit area News home delivery will continue to be in the afternoon only.
The change could increase News circulation by 16,000 copies by the end of the year, said Robert Althaus, senior vice president for circulation for Detroit Newspaper Agency, the JOA running business and production operations of the two papers.
In a story in the combined Sunday Detroit News and Free Press, Althaus said the JOA wants to ensure a combined daily circulation of between 900,000 and 1 million ? with a gap between the News and Free Press of fewer than 100,000 copies.
In the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX, the combined daily circulation was about 910,000 ? but the News trailed the Free Press by about 192,000 copies.
According to the Audit Bureau, the Free Press has a circulation of 551,650 while the News is at 359,057.
When the two papers combined in 1989, the News, then on an all-day publishing schedule, was the market leader with an average daily circulation of 690,422 to the Free Press’ 626,434.
While the JOA has cut most deeply into the circulation of the News, the papers are down a combined 300,000 copies since combining operations.
To meet the new publishing schedule, the News is printed at the riverfront plant in downtown Detroit, while printing of the Free Press is split between the downtown plant and the JOA’s plant in suburban Sterling Heights.
At the same time it resumed single-copy morning sales, the News introduced a redesigned look.
The paper also now incorporates the slogan “The Final Word” in its flag.