A weekend in Detroit, a fresh look at CS

Filed under: Opinion |

Two weekends ago, several managers and I went to Detroit for the Alliance of Area Business Publications summer conference.

After many of you got an automatic reply when you e-mailed me and voice-mail for three days, I thought I should share the information I gathered from this trip so that you know my absence was worthwhile.

The conference had attendees who flew in from places as diverse as Fresno Calif., Springfield, Mo., (yep, the Springfield folks are tuned in with Norm Ridder) and Perth Australia-where they sell advertising on the front page of the business journal.

I have been part of the AABP for many years and derive much value from the organization. The fellowship and sharing of ideas among publishers would give you no impression that these people are running papers that are immensely influential in their local communities. From the Los Angeles Business Journal to Arkansas Business (Little Rock), the publishers are entwined with their communities.

Chatting with Brian Tucker, publisher of Crain’s Cleveland Business, about board involvement was interesting. Thirteen boards would be a few too cumbersome for me, but it’s a way of life for him.

One of the sessions at the conference combined publishers and editors to discuss how to gain newspaper readership among folks age 19 to 29. The discussion was led by Northwestern University’s Readership Institute.

Daily newspapers have been trying to determine how to appeal to younger readers for years. It’s not much different for business journals.

The average age of our readers is 49 and is consistent across all markets.

It makes sense to me. I know when I was 25 and driving yachts around the Caribbean I was not reading business journals. (By the way, Caribbean Business published out of Puerto Rico is quite a good paper).

An older demographic for business journals makes sense because our readers are at or near the top of their organizations. I’m happy that business journals know who our readers are and that we do not have to try to be everything to everybody-thus serving everyone only partially.

It is our mission to serve our readership. Gaining the readership of younger business executives is important to the CSBJ, and we strive to reach those people but not at the expense of our core readers. Your feedback on this point is welcomed.

Now back to Detroit itself. The city has a resource we don’t, lots of water, but hasn’t capitalized on it.

One evening several of us wanted to relax by taking in some water views and listening to the lapping of waves on a dock.

The water was no more than a five-minute walk from our hotel, but there was no establishment there to patronize. So, we had to take a 20-minute cab ride through a few “unfriendly” looking neighborhoods.

Their downtown infrastructure needs some major help.

Talking to some local folks though, I got a sense of the pride they have for their city despite the challenges that Detroit faces. Several people I talked to said that they had lived other places but returned to Detroit and would never leave again.

One of the people I met, who I happened to mention to that I might write a column about Detroit, sent me an e-mail last week that said the city’s Super Bowl committee doesn’t want any of the fans to spend any time in downtown Detroit, except for the game.

“Apparently, our illustrious City Council feels they need to protect the sponsors of the All Star game rather than their own residents and businessmen,” Maureen Kearns wrote.

She also said that despite the challenges, residents of Detroit are proud of their city and that “we have no where to go but up.”

I am glad that things in downtown Colorado Springs are looking up. It’s my belief that as a downtown goes so goes a region. With the Springs Downtown Partnership, we are already on our way up.

Monday the Downtown Partnership hosted a discussion on public/private partnerships for downtown revitalization. San Diego, Seattle and Des Moines told their stories.

The discussion was moderated by Dave Feehan, president of the International Downtown Association. (Dave and I were in Des Moines around the same time.)

One thing that came through loud and clear as I heard about the $1.8 billion in private and public projects in Des Moines and the $877.10 billion in San Diego is the need for education about the vision of downtown. The need for leadership in the private and public sectors championing the cause of downtown growth and bringing downtown housing is paramount to our successes as a region.

Thank goodness for Beth Kosley and all the other folks who care about the Springs. I hate to think that we were sliding down the same slope as Detroit. We are making headway…but is it fast enough?

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at lon.matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.