AnnArbor.com rolled into main MLive website in media shakeup

By Austen Hufford, Online Editor
Published September 4, 2013

In an effort to streamline production and content delivery, the MLive Media Group announced Wednesday that AnnArbor.com would cease to exist as a standalone website, instead integrated into the larger MLive.com.

This move puts the news outlet in line with several other city papers around the state, including The Grand Rapids Press and The Flint Journal, which are housed on MLive. AnnArbor.com was its only separately marketed website.

MLive said there would be no staff changes as a result of the website’s closure.

In an open letter to readers, Dan Gaydou, MLive’s CEO and president, and Laurel Champion, the company's southeast Michigan General Manager, said AnnArbor.com was a “huge success,” citing high market penetration.

“This transition brings together two of the most successful digital news platforms to leverage the best of them both,” the letter stated.

The publication’s twice-weekly print editions will also be rebranded as The Ann Arbor News, and will contain Ann-Arbor-focused content from MLive.

AnnArbor.com is the latest incarnation of the 174-year-old Ann Arbor News, a daily print publication that covered and the University’s campus, which ceased printing amid general financial difficulties in the industry in 2009. At the time of the paper’s closing, Ann Arbor became the largest city in America without a professional daily newspaper, and The Michigan Daily became the only daily print publication in Washtenaw County.

AnnArbor.com continued with a much-reduced staff and printed on Thursdays and Sundays. At the time, it was marketed as an “innovative community news and information service.”

The Ann Arbor News closing was widely regarded as one of the first large-scale experiments in finding alternative revenue models for local newspapers. Critics have said AnnArbor.com’s much-reduced staff has severely diminished its investigative reporting powers while others contend its cheaper costs allow it to survive in the long run.

In an August 2012 interview with The American Journalism Review, Charles Eisendrath, director of the University’s Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship, said the demise of The Ann Arbor News had a negative effect on the city and AnnArbor.com was incapable of filling the void it left.

"If you pay people a third of what they were paid before, and you have a third as many of them, the results aren't exactly rocket science," Eisendrath told the Review.

MLive has five senior-level “content” employees listed on its website and 16 senior-level “sales and marketing” employees.

Communications Prof. Derek Vaillant said the loss of a daily city paper has left a hole in the Ann Arbor community.

“It’s an embarrassment to this community and this state,” Vallant said. “The people in Ann Arbor are the least well-informed in the state. You have to really work hard to get your news”