Even as the website with the acorn logo has boosted its traffic, the twice-a-week print newspaper, also called AnnArbor.com, reaches far fewer households than the old Ann Arbor News.
While they acknowledge some missteps in launching their Sunday newspaper, AnnArbor.com officials say they are proud of their news, community connections, and online growth. “We always want more,” says CEO Matt Kraner. But online readership and the number of people signing up for free email news summaries, he says, “are all either on target or ahead of target.”
“We’ve done a fantastic job,” Kraner says, drawing 40,000 to 50,000 unique visitors on an average weekday. Between the newspaper and the website, he says, AnnArbor.com “creates more reach than” the daily Ann Arbor News. in its last six months of publication in 2009. Citing a telephone survey of 700 Washtenaw County residents conducted by The Media Audit, Kraner said in an initial interview that the print and online publications of AnnArbor.com combined to reach 69 percent of the county’s adult residents.
Kraner declined to share the survey with the Observer, but he did provide a few excerpts that indicate that 55.7 percent of those surveyed reported visiting AnnArbor.com and its parent company’s statewide website, MLive.com, within the past month. Adding Sunday and Thursday newspaper readers, Kraner says, brought the combined “reach” to 69 percent.
In a later interview, Kraner dropped MLive from that total. Looking just at the AnnArbor.com print version and website, he says, the new publications reach around 62 percent of county residents–“almost equal to the audience of the News.”
Of course, Kraner’s comparison measures AnnArbor.com against the News in its most diminished state, just before it closed. In a recent six-month period, AnnArbor.com’s weekend edition sold 41,825 copies–but three years ago, the News had a Sunday circulation of 60,200.
Kraner acknowledges that the Sunday paper initially was “probably not the best strategic effort,” with not enough national news, some design issues, and not enough marketing. So they changed some parts of the newspaper and stepped up sales and promotions, including offering shoppers at Meijer and Plum Market a $10 gift card if they’ll sign up for a six-month subscription. The results so far are “very encouraging,” Kraner says, with more people now signing up to receive the paper than stopping delivery.
Kraner won’t say if AnnArbor.com is profitable, but he sounds pleased with its progress, saying “we’ve got a lot of advertisers on our site–dozens and dozens” and that readers are clicking on their ads at rates higher than on many traditional websites. He and chief content officer Tony Dearing also note proudly that AnnArbor.com took home five state Associated Press awards last year after only four months of operation.
Most of the site’s online contributors are unpaid, so there’s been some attrition there. “You get what you pay for,” says Jordan Miller, who had headed AnnArbor.com’s young adults section online and now works for a consumer products company. Former Shaman Drum owner Karl Pohrt and Motte & Bailey’s Gene Alloway both have stopped contributing posts on books. Farmers’ Market manager Molly Notarianni last blogged in August 2009.