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June 23, 2009

The First American City Without A Newspaper?

annarbornews.jpgAlready this year a couple of major newspapers have closed their doors, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Denver's Rocky Mountain News. Longterm business erosion and the recession are threatening any newspaper that was already struggling. Most industry watchers anticipate there will be several more newspaper failures this year, and several are currently in bankruptcy. So which city would be the first to have no daily paper? The answer is: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ann Arbor? Home to the huge University of Michigan, birthplace and headquarters of the Borders book chain and a pocket of relative prosperity with only light collateral damage from the auto industry, a literate place, population around 100,000, one might expect to be appreciative of what print newspapers offer.
 
But some of those apparent strengths seem instead to have proven drawbacks -- a curious state of affairs that may provide an unexpected window into what kinds of newspapers are most vulnerable in the brutal business climate of 2009.
So what are those factors?

"What people don't understand is that, yes, Ann Arbor is a dynamic, vital market... But there are a lot of things about Ann Arbor that make it harder to succeed as a print daily paper. Print papers do a little better with an older audience, and Ann Arbor is a little younger. We do better where there is a high level of home ownership, and there's a lower level of home ownership. We do a little better where there is a higher level of longtime residents. Ann Arbor is much more transitory."
And this, conjectures Poynter's Rick Edmonds:

I don't think it is a stretch to extrapolate the Ann Arbor problem to metro markets in the worst trouble -- San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Jose. Youngish, upscale, hip, high-tech , a big artistic community -- those may all be economic engines for the city but a business negative for the one-size-fits-all traditional newspaper.
June 23, 2009 8:38 AM | | Comments (0)

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