Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

If you care about the state of newspapers, I encourage you to read the Newspaper Fact Sheet in the State of the News Media 2016 report published today by the Pew Research Center.

But if  you want to get a quick sense of the report, just read the headlines for the graphics:

  • Newspaper circulation declines for second consecutive year in 2015
  • Print-only still most common way of reading newspapers
  • Advertising revenue sees biggest drop since 2009
  • A quarter of advertising revenue comes from digital
  • As many newspaper companies saw a loss as saw profit in 2015
  • Newsroom employment continues to fall
  • The number of daily newspapers has decreased by more than 100 since 2004
  • Newspapers gain in mobile traffic but fall in mobile minutes per visit

That’s a pretty grim state of newspapers. Read the details if you want, but the headlines capture them pretty well.

Those advertising figures didn’t come from the Newspaper Association of America’s annual reports. Those reports stopped two years ago, when report on 2013 numbers showed print advertising at $17.3 billion, a collapse from $47.4 billion in 2005. That’s a 64 percent drop in raw dollars in eight years, 69 percent after adjusting for inflation. I wonder why NAA stopped releasing its annual figures?

Since the NAA stopped issuing its bleak reports, Pew has calculated its newspaper revenue figures from the Securities and Exchange Commission filings of publicly held newspaper companies. For those companies at least (and more, I can assure you), the bleeding continues.

A mantra repeated by newspaper executives during this collapse was that we could never replace print advertising revenues with digital ads, that we were trading print dollars for digital dimes (and eventually digital pennies). Well, they’re right, newspapers haven’t been able to replace print ads with digital (in fact, newspaper companies’ digital advertising revenue actually declines in 2015, just not as sharply as print ad revenue). But digitally focused companies, not distracted by trying to protect a declining product, have scooped up all that advertising cash, dollar for dollar: Digital ad revenue last years totaled $59.6 billion, more than print ad revenue (even adjusted for inflation) in 2005, the last year newspapers’ ad revenues grew.

Despite all the hope and effort newspapers have poured into paywalls, digital subscriptions are mentioned just once in the newspaper fact sheet (and not with a revenue figure attached). The report says digital circulation increased by 2 percent (do I hear champagne corks popping?).

The digital news fact sheet not surprisingly reports that mobile advertising revenue has surpassed desktop ad revenue. Back in 2009, when the collapse of print advertising was accelerating, I called for a mobile-first strategy. I’m not aware of any newspaper organization that has made such a shift yet.

Newspapers used to comfort themselves in the face of grim numbers showing that young people weren’t reading newspapers, saying that they would start reading when they started having children and getting involved in their communities. Check out the daily newspaper readership by age: In the 45-54 age group, people whose children are in college, daily newspaper readership has fallen to 28 percent, half what it was a decade earlier.

When I first clicked on the newspaper fact sheet, I got an error message:

Newspapers fact sheet

The folks at Pew quickly fixed the bad link. But I think the error page might how shown a brighter outlook for newspapers.

Correction note: I originally wrote “million” instead of “billion” in one of the numbers  here. Wish I could say that’s the first time I’d made that mistake.

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Facebook birthdayFB Teresa SchmeddingI whine a lot on Facebook about the user experience there. But not on my birthday.

(Well, a little the morning after my birthday, but more on that later.)

On my birthday yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the well wishes of friends, family, former colleagues and people I’ve never met who somehow connected with me digitally. It’s a wonderful experience and a challenge to keep up with just “liking” each birthday wish, let alone responding to them.

I spent my birthday in the hospital, starting my second stem-cell harvest, so it’s been doubly meaningful (I’m back for more harvest today). A hospital is a boring place to be a patient, never festive on the oncology floor, no matter how kind and attentive the staff (and the staff at Our Lady of the Lake have been terrific). (more…)

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Facebook logo copyI blame Facebook’s crappy iPad app for this blog post.

I actually thought of the topic for this post before falling asleep around 11 p.m. That’s when I read the New York Times story about the Times and other news organizations considering and negotiating a deal to publish content on Facebook rather than on their own sites.

I have a busy day planned today (even if I am stuck in the hospital, I’m working and I have class today, plus many other chores awaiting me). So that post might have gone unwritten.

But something woke me up around 2 a.m. If you’ve spent much time in the hospital, you understand. And before trying to get back to sleep, I tried to answer a question on my iPad in a Facebook discussion. And Facebook’s iPad sucks so bad that I had to abandon the iPad, then redo and finish my answer on the laptop. And then, I had to blog about Facebook. Piss me off in the middle of the night when I’d rather be sleeping, and I will blog about you, even if I have to finish grumpy in the daylight.

Part of my initial response to skepticism about the wisdom of getting into bed with Facebook would have been to note that newspapers have been dependent on (at the mercy of?) other businesses my whole career. Other media are dependent, too, but I will focus here mostly on newspapers. Part of my argument would have noted that the dependency on Facebook was likely to cause problems (as it has before), but I was probably going to come down on the side of saying I might be exploring or testing such a relationship myself if I were the New York Times, BuzzFeed or National Geographic, the companies apparently in such discussions with Facebook.

But then I got pissed off at the Facebook app in the middle of the night, and thought of how dependence on external carriers was a bad decision for the Kansas City Star and Times decades ago, and I had to start blogging in the middle of the night about why publishers should be cautious about increasing their dependence on Facebook. (more…)

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You can’t get scooped because competition gets tipped to a story when you tweet about it. Your tweets already scooped the competition.

A Digital First engagement editor who’s been teaching colleagues how to use Twitter got these questions from a veteran reporter:

Thank you for helping me understand Twitter and how to use it. What I don’t get is: If we tweet where we are and what we’re doing, how do we keep the competition from making a few phone calls on a story we sat through a meeting to sift out and develop? Or they’re not at the fire, but I’m tweeting and now they know.

And if I give results on Twitter, why would they buy a paper to see the results of the game?

I thought Twitter was to draw readers to our paper. So this is a struggle.

This is classic print-centric thinking. The newspaper has an early print deadline so “they’ve been scooped a lot,” the engagement editor told me. In this kind of thinking, scoops are based on who has the print story first.

That’s not how Digital First journalists and newsrooms think. If we had the story first, we had the scoop. And you have the story first if you have it on Twitter and/or on your website.  (more…)

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I traveled to lots of newspapers and press association conferences in the three years I worked for the American Press Institute. I heard lots of editors, publishers, journalists and newspaper leaders talk about blogging and other aspects of digital journalism and innovation. So I say with great confidence that disdain for bloggers is widespread (though certainly not universal) in the newspaper business.

I even saw it in a trip to Siberia last year. When Russian speakers were discussing journalism issues at a conference I attended in Barnaul, I relied heavily on interpreters softly providing simultaneous translation. But when one speaker spat out the word “blogger,” I recognized without translation. The scorn leaped across the language barrier, sounding identical to American newspaper publishers using the same word.

A favorite myth newspaper people keep repeating about bloggers is that they would have nothing to write about without newspapers. The respected Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism even produced a biased, flawed study, providing statistics for newspapers to cite (and, interestingly, some more critical numbers that didn’t get nearly as much attention from newspapers, whose leaders often like to preach about objectivity). (more…)

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Newspapers can be replaced.

Don’t get me wrong. I love newspapers. I have spent my adult life (and the later years of my youth) working in the newspaper industry, starting as a carrier. Old newspapers hang on my office walls and fill my cabinets and file drawers. I believe that pretty much any mediocre newspaper is still the best news outlet and advertising vehicle in most any community.

But I am concerned by a conceit I hear and read too often from journalists and newspaper executives hoping to get by with incremental approaches to innovation. It certainly underlies the notion that if newspapers suddenly all started charging for content, the freeloading public would have to buckle and start paying. These people dismissively proclaim that their communities would suddenly starve (or pay) for news and information if the newspaper went out of business or its content vanished behind a paywall.   (more…)

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This has been a tumultuous month for the newspaper industry, stumbling toward the finish line of a traumatic year. And it’s been a great week for The Gazette.
WGN, the broadcast flagship of the mighty Tribune Company media empire, took its call letters from the longtime boast in the Chicago Tribune masthead: “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” Last week Tribune filed for bankruptcy.
Gannett Co., the largest newspaper group in the country, cut 10 percent of its jobs. That pushed the nationwide total of jobs lost in the newspaper industry this year above 15,000, according to Paper Cuts, a site that keeps track.
Iowa’s Gannett casualties included the Des Moines Register’s outstanding cartoonist Brian Duffy. As editor of The Gazette, I am delighted that we have added him to our opinion pages in syndication. As a longtime Register reader and former colleague of Duffy at the Register, I am saddened to see the end of the front-page cartoons that became a Register distinction.
I brushed away tears some 25 years ago as I edited the 1983 obituary of Frank Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist whose work graced the Register’s front pages for three decades following the tenure of Jay N. “Ding” Darling, winner of two Pulitzers. Many of us wondered then if the Register’s front-page cartoons – even then an anachronism, though much beloved by Iowans – would continue. But the Register hired Duffy, gave him the front-page slot and he lasted nearly as long as Miller. But the turmoil in the newspaper industry was more powerful than that quaint tradition.
The loss of a cartoonist paled, though, in comparison to the nationwide loss of billions of dollars in advertising revenues and in value of newspaper stocks.
Stock in Lee Enterprises, Davenport-based publisher of five Iowa newspapers and 48 other dailies, dropped last week to 35 cents a share. Within the past year Lee’s high was $15.97. That means the stock lost 98 percent of its value within the past year. Shocking as that is, Lee is faring better than a couple other newspaper companies, Gatehouse and Journal Register, and not much worse than McClatchy or Media General.
Even the powerful New York Times has lost nearly two-thirds of its stock value in the past year. As it struggles to restructure debt, it plans to mortgage its Manhattan headquarters and rumors swirl of a buyout by Google.
“Perfect storm” is a cliché that we have overused since that George Clooney movie made it popular. But the newspaper industry is facing a perfect storm of economic challenges: Print circulation has been falling for decades; online audience is growing but online advertising commands a tiny fraction of the rates of print ads; print advertising revenue dropped suddenly and sharply last year and even worse this year; and now the nation’s economy has plummeted into recession or worse. Even with all that, newspaper companies generally would have healthy operating profits. But those circumstances have made it difficult to impossible for many companies to handle their burdensome debt loads.

As companies like Lee, McClatchy and Gatehouse expanded in recent years, when advertising revenues were still rising, they bought at the top of the market, like lots of homeowners now facing foreclosure. As with banks, insurance companies and lots of overextended families, it is the debt that threatens these newspaper companies.

So why was this one of my most exciting, optimistic weeks in 37 years in the newspaper business? Not just because we’re doing better than other companies or just because our debt is manageable. If we were operating the same as other companies, we still might be heading the same direction.

This past week was exciting and optimistic because the Gazette staff did some outstanding journalism, looking back six months after our devastating flood. But we also looked ahead last week. Gazette executives spent lots of time planning a course that I think will secure a prosperous future for our company in face of all this turmoil. We are headed toward an organizational transformation unlike anything attempted in the news media. As we work out details, we will tell you about our plans. Chuck Peters, our CEO, is already blogging about the new mindset we need, the new tasks we must do and the new organization we will become.

Read his blog and mine. We’ll keep you updated on our plans. I hope it will be more uplifting than reading about what’s happening elsewhere in the news industry.

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