About a year ago, the Ann Arbor News closed up, replaced by the Web-first, print-second AnnArbor.com, making Ann Arbor, Michigan the first American city to lose its only daily paper.
Like many webbier, bloggier replacements for newspapers (like SeattlePI.com), AnnArbor.com’s strategy has been to stay small and lean and grow slow but steady. Unlike SeattlePI.com and others, the website isn’t competing with a print product.
So how has the site done over the past year? Says Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, steady growth in pageviews, no furloughs, and a few hires (though no new journalists have been added since the site’s launch last year).
The print product, which twice weekly compiles the highlights of AnnArbor.com for people who like paper, is the “single biggest revenue driver” for the site, says AnnArbor.com president and CEO Matt Kraner. But of the online portion, company officials say the answer is proprietary. “Perhaps tellingly,” writes Zorn, “Ann Arbor still is the only American city of any size to have lost its local daily to a dotcom, and Advance officials say they have no plans to expand the idea to other markets. Yet.”
However, Zorn says, the journalism is better than before, and the site is improving.
A former sports columnist for the paper who left in 2008 (before the paper closed) to enroll in law school told Zorn that AnnArbor.com is “fine. It’s producing just the sort of content you’d expect from a small-town paper with a staff that size. It’s hardly the revolution the city was promised.”