As part of the change in delivery of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, which began today, Washtenaw News Co. has gotten a boost – the first good news this local business has seen in several years, according to its CEO, Nick Genova.
Starting today, Washtenaw News – an Ann Arbor-based distributor of newspapers and magazines – will be delivering the New York Times to home subscribers throughout most of Washtenaw County, Genova said. The papers were previously delivered under an agreement with the Detroit Media Partnership, which manages the Detroit papers.
The three-year contract with Washtenaw News also includes delivery of USA Today and Investor’s Business Daily. In addition, Washtenaw News is a distributor locally for the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the Ann Arbor News, among other publications. The deal means that Washtenaw News now uses about 20 independent contractors to deliver the papers, Genova said – about double the number they used before.
The Chronicle heard about this news on Sunday morning, when the following note slipped out of the New York Times delivered to Chronicle Central:
From your Newspaper Carrier
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I have been delivering the New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, USA Today and Investor’s Business Daily in your neighborhood since spring 2007. After today I will longer be providing this service to you.
I believe an explanation is in order: Detroit Media Partnership has been the local distributor for home delivery of the papers I bring you each morning. When Detroit announced its plan to go to a three-day delivery schedule, the national publications sought a new distribution contract. Detroit Media did not win it. As a result, they reconfigured most routes, combining some and eliminating others.
Detroit newspaper customers: your delivery agent will still be working for Detroit Media. New York Times, USA Today, and Investor’s Business Daily customers: the company that begins delivering tomorrow has been the Wall Street Journal distributor for many years, Washtenaw News.
It has been a pleasure serving you. I wish you all the best.
Reached by phone Monday morning, Canze said that he talked to Washtenaw News about picking up routes with them, but decided against it based on the configuration of the routes and the lower compensation they offered. He was paid 22 cents per weekday paper delivered and 29 cents for Sunday papers. Washtenaw News is paying 5% to 10% below that, he said. And since independent contractors pay for everything associated with their work, such as gas and insurance, he said it wasn’t worth it for him. However, Canze said several carriers he knows did take routes with Washtenaw News.
Monday’s deliveries were a bit bumpy, according to Genova, as new carriers learned customer preferences. “But we are learning them,” he said, “and tomorrow will be a lot better.”
Washtenaw News Co. was founded 53 years ago and is headquartered on South Industrial. The company’s fortunes are tied to the struggling newspaper industry, and since the 1990s they’ve seen business slide. “There has never been a time when newspaper sales are as bad as they are now,” Genova said. “Never.”
The biggest downturn occurred between 2004 and 2006, Genova said, and with the recent announcement that the Ann Arbor News is closing in July, “there’s not a bright horizon on that, either,” he said.
Yet he’s cautiously optimistic, saying that the New York Times contract came at a good time.
Last year, the two Detroit papers – operating under the Detroit Media Partnership – announced their plans to scale back home delivery. Starting this week, the Free Press is being delivered Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, while the News will be delivered Thursdays and Fridays only. The Detroit Media Partnership previously had a contract to deliver the New York Times in this region, but when DMP scaled back its own home delivery, the Times opened bids for a new distributor. The Times is printed locally at the Ann Arbor News printing facility in Pittsfield Township, off of State Road just north of Textile.
Genova said he hopes to secure delivery of the print editions planned by the new business that’s being started by the owners of the Ann Arbor News. That entity, called AnnArbor.com, plans two printed editions a week and an additional “total market coverage” printed product. (See previous Chronicle coverage of the announcement here.)
Meanwhile, Canze, who lives in the Ann Arbor area, is looking for another part-time job – “anything I can get,” he said, though he hopes it’s something that won’t cause sleep depravation deprivation. Locally, carriers for the Detroit papers, New York Times and other a.m. publications start their routes by picking up papers at a warehouse near the Ann Arbor Airport, usually getting there by 2 a.m. or earlier.