The news about the news has been truly horrific this week. Massive bloodletting from coast to shaking coast. Staff cuts, furloughs everywhere.
Amid the doom, gloom and cutting, let's keep our eye on what is turning into ground zero for what's next. Michigan.
Michigan of course is synonymous with cars and old steel. Lately, it's been trying climb a seemingly insurmountable mountain, proclaiming its hybrid future. Hybrids, you know, a little bit of the old business, some of the new world. Fusions, Escapes and Escalades and more to come.
Well, maybe, those will work.
Next week, Michigan certainly, though will take a big step in another kind of hybrid experiment. On March 30, The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News flip the hybrid switch. (Good interview with Dave Hunke, Detroit JOA head, by Poynter's Bill Mitchell.) They are becoming the first metro newspapers to leave daily home delivery behind, delivering only three days a week. They'll put out a newsstand edition -- smaller than the home-delivered day papers -- the other days, for those newspaper junkies willing to make a point of becoming their own delivery people or take advantage of a new same-day postal delivery option in the works. You can see how the Detroit News is preparing its readers for the changes, and the new pricing.
Then, coming this summer, we see Newhouse's Michigan papers, flipping switches of their own.
The Ann Arbor News made the biggest splash, grandly announcing its own demise and "online-only" rebirth, then stuck in the release news of two print editions plus a total market circulation product each week.
Three other Newhouse "Booth" papers simultaneously said they are moving from seven-day dailies (there, again the oxymoronic need to define) to three-day dailies in Flint, Saginaw and Bay City. They also promised lots of web-first and web special content.
Those announcements made the same day both certified Michigan's leading role -- of course helped along by its leadership in overall economic decline -- in redefining the daily press.
They also cause head-scratching.
Wait a minute. What's the difference between an "online-only" product, with two or three weekly editions and three-day-a-week "daily" newspapers with stronger online presence?
That distinction confused many of us, and it may well confuse those charged with making the transitional moves.
No one knows exactly how to describe this new Hybrid Age of News(papers) we're moving into.