Newspapers beat dogs as part of American lifestyle

Dateline: Thu 28 May 2009

Friend Jane Rose, a former marketing guru at the Indianapolis Star, now works for the Zionsville Times Sentinel, part of Community Newspaer Holdings, Inc. The latter, based in Birmingham, Ala., has a strong toehold in Indiana; the company owns and runs 11 dailies in the state and four non-dailies.

Rose recently sent along thoughts voiced by her boss, Donna Barrett, president and chief CEO of CNHI, about the trouble with newspapers -- in a nutshell, revenue, not readers. It's a bracing bit of insight and a far cry from the self-serving analysis served up in today's Star in a paid ad by the Newspaper Association of America, which basically says everything is hunky-dory.

Anyhow, here is Barrett's analysis, under the heading, 'GET IT STRAIGHT: NEWSPAPERS' STRUGGLE IS REVENUE, NOT READERSHIP

"May 04, 2009 05:58 pm

By Donna Barrett

Enough already. Partial facts and misinformation about newspapers are distorting the view for everyone, including readers and advertisers.

Let's set the record straight: Newspapers still enjoy considerable readership and deliver strong results for advertisers. More Americans read printed newspapers than own dogs. More Americans read printed newspapers than watch the Super Bowl. Newspapers and their Web sites reach a larger audience than ever before.

The crisis facing newspapers is not an audience problem. It is a revenue problem.

Newspapers deliver vital information to communities, as they have since this country was settled. But something has to pay for all of that news. Advertising has traditionally supported the valuable content provided by newspapers. Two developments have devastated that revenue.

The first is the recession. Newspapers are no different than television, radio, Internet, Major League Baseball, NASCAR and all businesses that rely on other businesses for money from advertising and promotion. The recession has led to a significant decrease in ad spending. Everyone is hurting. Newspapers just talk about it more.

Free Internet sites such as Craigslist are the other factor. These sites siphon off considerable classified advertising.

It is tough to compete against free, and free doesn’t pay for journalists.

There is no shortage of other theories on why newspapers are hurting. Most come from those without direct responsibility for the financial health of a newspaper. Some popular explanations:

1.) Newspapers are too liberal and drive off readers as a result.
2.) Newspaper publishers are slow to embrace new technology.
3.) Newspapers are losing readers to the Internet.

As my father used to say, they don’t know what they don’t know. In reality, none of these theories is responsible for newspapers' woes.

Overall readership is growing. Most publishers embrace technological advances to serve their audience, but they face a real-world problem that these advances usually provide much less revenue than their core business.

Finally, newspaper companies are losing classified revenue, not readers, to the Internet. In one of life’s ironies, newspapers are growing audience through the very outlet that takes away so much revenue.

Newspaper publishers face many challenges in a changing world. They must answer some important revenue questions if their newspapers are to continue serving our communities as effectively as they have for more than 300 years.

The least we can do is make sure the issues are not distorted and misinterpreted.

Donna Barrett is president and chief executive officer of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc."


Tell The Truth [Member] said:

So long as newspaper executives think their "readership is growing" because they count the website hits as a "reader," then they'll have problems.

And, any newspaper that needed the classified revenue to survive,wasn't doing things right in the first place.

The average metro newspaper's ratecard has been too high for years, and the pigeons come home to roost during a deep and long recession.

2009-05-28 12:04:37

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

When I worked for advertising agencies in New York and St Louis in the 1870s and 1980s, we would have been beside ourselves with happiness with a 9% margin. Newspapers and businesses in general got greedy. Analysts got greedy. Wall Street got greedy. And anything less than 15% was Poorsville.

2009-05-28 15:21:53

photog [Member] said:

The audience problem is the reason for the revenue problem! Readership can be a huge number and still not pay the bills. Circulation is the silent killer. It's called a newspaper because it's printed on paper! The "readership" that actually puts the printed product in his/her hand and reads it with a cup of coffee is shrinking. This is the business model that has "paid the bills" for years. The genie is out of the bottle, the internet is mostly free and everyone's attention span on the internet grows shorter by the day. Media over-saturation, free choices on the web and no customer loyalty make for a very toxic brew for newspapers to survive in. Add a recession to the soup, and well... you get the picture.

2009-05-28 17:34:00

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Two things govern ad revenue, from the cost-of-ad perspective: circulation and reliability of same.

There are two bonafide and widely-used yardsticks of circulation...or at least, there were.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation is an industry-created and -supported monster. It has revised its circ. criteria several times in recent years, dumbing-down the reliability of their numbers.

A much more reliable, and heretofore little-noticed, method of circ. verification is the Second Class USPS Permit Only controlled-circ. publications can get it, and it allows them to mail at greatly-subsidized rates.

Part and parcel of that permit, is an Annual Statement of Circulation and Ownership, which you often see printed in the papers and mags in October. It includes a detailed accounting of free and spoiled circ., as well as paid copies on an average basis and on the date of the actual statement. The USPS actually audits these statements on a random basis, and ad agencies are starting to use the numbers as a much-more-reliable barometer.

2009-05-28 18:18:46

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