The deep cost-cutting measures by Detroit’s dailies illustrate the challenge legacy news providers face as they adapt to the economics of online media. The strategy worked as a survival mechanism in a tough market; the damage from cutting home delivery was checked by the fact that print revenue is falling so quickly anyway. But it hasn’t transformed a great number of print readers into new digital users. The sites’ main growth occurred before the delivery change, and appears to have been fueled by big, well-covered stories, and improved functionality that got readers more involved.

And more broadly, publishers can be expected to look more closely at news-gathering expenses, measuring the costs of doing reporting against data points like page views on stories and engagement in subject areas. Journalists who understand those metrics will be much better equipped to handle the scrutiny that is going to be part of their careers.

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Bill Grueskin, Ava Seave, and Lucas Graves are the co-authors of "The Story so Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism." Grueskin is dean of academic affairs at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Seave is a principal of Quantum Media, a NYC-based consulting firm. Graves is a PhD candidate in communications at Columbia University. For further biographical details, click here.