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Thursday April 17, 2014
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launched in 2009. The newspaper, too, has been "rebranded" into the past. It is once again called the Ann Arbor News--though it is still published only twice a week, and in much smaller numbers than the bygone daily.

So what happened? Why did AnnArbor. com, launched with a huge marketing budget and hopes that it would be a model for the entire Newhouse chain, fail as a brand and as a business?

In a press release, MLive president Dan Gaydou and former Ann Arbor publisher Laurel Champion--now general manager for southeast Michigan--insisted that "AnnArbor. com was a bold business move that's been a huge success." Yet according to comScore Media Metrix data, the site's unique visitor count dropped in several months of 2013--in May, AnnArbor. com drew 388,000 unique visitors, compared to 538,000 in May 2012. And on close examination, the billboards' "largest" claim turns out to have been deceptive. A tiny footnote revealed that it reflected the combined local readership of AnnArbor. com and MLive.

Print circulation, meanwhile, fell off a cliff. In a September 2007 audit of the Ann Arbor News, paid Sunday circulation was 58,416. In March of 2013, AnnArbor. com's Sunday sales were just 30,998. Thursday circulation, 26,648, was even lower.

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