Washtenaw News Wins NY Times Contract

A note from the New York Times' carrier on his last delivery day

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.

Kevin Canze

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.


  1. By Elyse Rubin
    March 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm | permalink

    I received a similar note in the Sunday New York Times from my carrier, who has been delivering in the neighborhood for eight years. Good news for Washtenaw News perhaps, but bad news for existing carriers.

  2. By susan wineberg
    March 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm | permalink

    This might explain why we didn’t get our New York Times today.

  3. By Vivienne Armentrout
    March 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm | permalink

    We didn’t either.

  4. By Garrett Scott
    March 30, 2009 at 2:23 pm | permalink

    We got two and they were up on our lawn instead of at the foot of the driveway.

  5. By MattH
    March 30, 2009 at 2:52 pm | permalink

    I wondered why I didn’t get a paper today.

  6. By Robert H Borcherts
    March 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm | permalink

    We didn’t get the NYT either today, and when I sent an email to that effect and asking for a paper, none was delivered today. Maybe tomorrow……..

  7. By Maggie Levenstein
    March 31, 2009 at 6:13 am | permalink

    We haven’t gotten our paper for two days in a row, despite repeated calls to the New York Times. I’d suggest that Washtenaw News hire the excellent carrier we had for the last eight years.

  8. By Vivienne Armentrout
    March 31, 2009 at 8:04 am | permalink

    I called Washtenaw News (after we didn’t get a paper for a second day) and talked to a human being. She gave me the direct phone number for Delivery Unlimited, 668-8388. She said things are better today but they are trying to straighten it out.

  9. March 31, 2009 at 9:54 am | permalink

    Got a paper today!

  10. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 31, 2009 at 2:21 pm | permalink

    The folks at Washtenaw News did an outstanding job assisting with keeping the Detroit papers rolling during the 1995 union busting Newspaper Guild strike too.

    Great company.

  11. By Ruth Langston
    March 31, 2009 at 6:41 pm | permalink

    I did not get the paper Monday or Tuesday. When I called the NYT line for missed papers Monday morning, I was told they are so sorry and a paper would be delivered to me between 10:00 and 2:00. It was not. When I called Tuesday morning (after 10:00) I was told they are so sorry and I would get a credit. I wish they would just say there is a problem with delivery in our area! Hope I get a paper Wednesday morning.

    Mr. Genova says deliveries are a bit bumpy as new carriers were learning customer preferences. Well, my preference is to get the paper delivered — I’m not hard to please!

  12. By Alan Goldsmith
    April 1, 2009 at 11:09 am | permalink

    Has anyone tried the Amazon Kindle 2? Instant delivery on a handheld reader and you eliminate the paper tossed into the bushes. It appears that option will be coming from the Detroit News and Free Press in a few months as well.

  13. By Susan Contratto
    April 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm | permalink

    I called the Washtenaw News this morning, spoke to a person and very shortly received a paper on the porch. He told me that the information about where to leave the paper (driveway…porch…etc)was not forthcoming in the information they had received. So I would urge people to call if you have concerns.

    April 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm | permalink

    The NY Times delivery service went down hill March 30th. Whereas I had received the paper by 6AM it now arrives, if it arrives, by somewhere between 8 to 9AM – rendering it useless for my purposes. My apartment number is no longer marked on the plastic delivery bag which is important as there are several subscribers in my building. I have registered a complaint to the New York Times,and will see if they express any interest before I cancel.

  15. By Rina Miller
    April 2, 2009 at 6:46 pm | permalink

    And all this time I’d been blaming my depravation on lack of sleep. Now what?

  16. By Vivienne Armentrout
    April 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm | permalink

    My experience has been that the New York Times is very solicitous of its subscribers. I encourage all the rest of you to keep calm and keep on sending calls and emails. I suspect that all of their customer service personnel have learned about Ann Arbor, Michigan by now.

    FWIW, my record has been: M: no paper T: called Washtenaw News, got paper at end of driveway late in day W: paper at end of driveway (we’ve always had it delivered to the door) about 8:30 a.m.; Th (today) paper at end of driveway, 7:30 a.m. (supposed to be guaranteed by 6:30 a.m.)

    I’m going to keep working on it. Can’t give that one up.

  17. By Gerry Clark
    April 5, 2009 at 7:55 am | permalink

    After not getting our Sunday Times we called them and were informed they would no longer deliver to our house. The supposed agreement we had for home delivery over the last several years was broken.

  18. By J. Walker
    April 5, 2009 at 8:17 am | permalink

    Boy, not only is the paper no longer being delivered to my door, but instead to the front of my apartment building, but it is also being printed on paper that is way larger than the print itself requires.

    It’s hard to believe that the NY Times, struggling to keep subscribers, would go with a company that is obviously so much worse at delivery and printing than the last. I sent an e-mail to the Times, I will cancel if papers are still delivered to the front of the building along with all the other morning papers and without any apartment number.

  19. By Mary Morgan
    April 5, 2009 at 9:18 am | permalink

    Re. comment #18: Washtenaw News is the distributor only, not the printer. The Ann Arbor News has the contract to print the NY Times for this region. It’s odd if the size of the printed paper changed – newsprint is the second-highest cost for newspapers, after payroll. If anything, there’d be incentive to print smaller, not larger.

    Related to the printing issue, as we reported here, when the Ann Arbor News closes in July, its printing facility will be spun off as a separate business – essentially, as a commercial printer.

  20. By Vivienne Armentrout
    April 5, 2009 at 9:32 am | permalink

    Progress report: I called Delivery Unlimited (668-8388) a second time to complain that my paper was still being delivered to the end of my driveway and today it arrived at my door. Some adjustments take time.

    We also noticed an unusually large bottom margin. Must have been something peculiar about that print run.

  21. April 5, 2009 at 9:56 am | permalink

    We got a freeSaturday paper, yay!

    (but no Sunday paper. boy, am I a cheapskate)

  22. By Mike
    April 20, 2009 at 11:25 am | permalink

    Re: #18/#29 – The New York Times went to a 23 inch web recently, rather than the 24 inch web it was printing on. When they shrank the paper width, it appears they kept the width-height ratio, so there is now extra white space at the bottom of the page. The height is not an adjustable option on presses (generally it is fixed at a certain length), so it really isn’t an option to change that unless they change where it is printed.

    Hopefully the NYT will recover that space, but if they are indeed using smaller cutoffs at some places where it is possible, it is likely that they will just leave it as is at those print sites that it is impossible to change, like Ann Arbor.