DETROIT STRIKE WEAVES INTO THE WEB

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When the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum opened, Detroit Free Press music writer Gary Graff filed seven stories from Cleveland.

But Mr. Graff, a member of the striking Newspaper Guild of Detroit, wasn't writing for the Free Press. His stories instead ran on The Detroit Journal (http://www.rust.net/workers/strike.htm), an electronic newspaper set up by strikers on the World Wide Web.

Interactive media have received a big boost in Detroit, where six unions representing some 2,500 workers have been on strike since July 13 against Detroit Newspapers, publisher of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press under a joint operating agreement.

Hours after the strike began, the News opened its own Web site (http://detnews.com). The Free is continuing to offer multimedia information on CompuServe while preparing for a Web site early next year. There's the Web site that strikers put up on July 22. And Crain's Detroit Business on July 17 put up its own home page (http://bizserve.com/crains/) to accompany the start-up of a daily news fax.

Much of the national attention on the strike has focused on clashes between police and pickets who have tried to prevent delivery trucks from leaving a Sterling Heights printing plant. Detroit Newspapers is publishing a joint edition of the papers during the strike.

Interactive technology could eventually make delivery trucks obsolete, but not yet.

"The problem is figuring out how to make [interactive publishing] a profitable business," said John Smyntek, director of Free Press Plus, the newspaper's phone, fax and online information services. The Free Press collects revenue based on CompuServe subscribers who spend time on line, but it's not yet enough to cover expenses, Mr. Smyntek said.

The News' Web site has "demonstrated some advertising potential," said Nancy Malitz, assistant managing editor responsible for interactive and electronic news.

But it's up to Detroit Newspapers to handle the ad side, and the staff there is focused on winning back advertisers who have left during the strike.

The Detroit Journal has a few local advertisers, such as printing and graphics shops. Guild members, who collect $150 a week in strike benefits, can contribute stories to the Internet site in place of picket duty.

Crain's Detroit Business sold an ad package to Ameritech Corp. for its fax service, and will sell space for a directory that will go up on its home page on Sept. 18, said Mary Kramer, associate publisher and editor.

Meanwhile, Detroit Newspapers convinced Kmart Corp. to resume its circulars. Kmart had temporarily switched to direct marketing specialist Advo.

Other retailers, such as J.C. Penney Co., continue to stay away because of concerns about delivery, to the benefit of suburban newspapers and broadcast media.

Suburban Communications Corp., publisher of the Observer & Eccentric newspapers, reaped such a large increase in inserts from advertisers including Best Buy Co. that it initially couldn't physically stuff all the inserts in its newspapers, leading to some one-day delays in delivery.

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