Daily Newspaper Companies
Apr 19, 2013
Let’s look then at the newsonomics of Pulitzers, paywalls, and investing in newsrooms, and think about whether our intuition has any basis in provable fact. If even 20 percent of expense devoted to newsroom seems like a low number, consider that the industry average is about 12.7 percent for the largest dailies. That’s the average newsroom expense, of total expenses, for papers above 100,000 circulation, according to Inland Press Association, the industry’s acknowledged leader in much benchmarking work. Interestingly, those with smaller circulations spend a bit more, and we know their business results over the last 10 years — less decline in ad revenue and in circulation — have been better. We can also see in the data that newspapers overall are spending a smaller percentage of their overall expenses on their newsrooms than they were 10 years ago. (The comparisons are 2011 to 2001; 2012 data will be out soon.Read More »
Apr 13, 2013
All-access circulation revenue is spinning upward, leading to a 5 percent gain in overall circulation revenue in 2012. Print advertising is whirling downward — 9 percent last year — in a seeming death spiral. Digital advertising is growing tepidly at 5 percent. Put those circulation and ad trends together and you end fairly flat on your back. So NAA’s number is that dailies lost 2 percent of revenue overall; I’ve made the point that their big goal, as nothingburger as it may sound, is to get back to zero revenue growth (“The Newsonomics of Zero, and the New York Times”).
Which brings us back to that non-ad, non-circ number. If local news organizations are going to regain growth — and hire — they must find new revenue. They have plumbed marketing services, events, and print-insourcing. Now some are putting a new category on the board: content marketing.
No, not content marketing, you say! It’s already a hackneyed phrase, seemingly identical to “native advertising” and “sponsored content,” both now much-recognized and already much-maligned techniques that bigger brands are using to break through the digital clutter and get to potential customers. Yes, content marketing (and we’ll narrow some definitions below). As news companies rediscover the power of their own content, there is new revenue to be gained. How much, not whether to seek it, will be the major question.Read More »
Apr 7, 2013
It’s incredibly sobering to remember that three of 10 readers have abandoned news outlets. That’s a reflection both of those newsroom reductions, which have removed three of 10 journalists, and how newspapers still spend way too much money in ways that don’t improve the product. Newspapers spend 10-20% of their overall budgets on content creation. It’s not enough; readers are voting with their feet. In a time when reader revenue is what’s working — that number one bright spot — publishers have got to figure out how to spend more on the single source of growth, readers.
As new NAA CEO Caroline Little puts it, “America’s newspaper media are transforming themselves.” “In virtually every community they serve, newspapers have the biggest newsrooms, the best-known brands and significant audience market share. Now they are building on those to find new ways to serve audiences and local businesses.” All true. That said, this profound and long-required transformation has been profoundly slow. In 2013, we finally see more innovators and innovation, but the overall numbers in the NAA survey point to relatively glacial change.Read More »
Apr 4, 2013
It’s the membership program — one that’s not unique in the industry — that will catch the headlines.The Register wants to go big. It approached the Angels, located 10 minutes away, with the idea of better using the empty seats the Angels couldn’t sell. The Angels found themselves sitting on almost 600,000 empty seats last year over 81 games. Put another 7,000 butts in those seats each night, even without getting paid for the ticket, and the club is pulling in another 10 bucks or so on Chronic Tacos, garlic fries, and overpriced Corona.
The perk is available on a first-signed-up, first-served basis to the Register’s 124,000 seven-day subscribers, beginning 72 hours before each game. Forty-eight hours before the game, the Angels, through Ticketmaster, release available seats. Register Connect buyers can nab four tickets, for a service charge of $5. Within a year — subject to going to the end of the electronic queue after landing some tickets — fans can claim as many as 96 tickets a season.
“We’re looking to execute at scale,” Spitz explains, noting that lots of membership perks are good, but few are likely to move the needle of buying and retention. The Angels’ ticket program is that touch of likely brilliance.Read More »
Mar 22, 2013
The top five digital ad companies — none of which is owned by a newspaper company — took in 64 percent of all digital ad spending in the U.S. in 2012. That’s Google — with an astounding 41 percent of all that ad money — and then Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, and AOL. Facebook is most ascendant among those four. Of Facebook’s $5 billion in 2012 revenue, at least $4 billion of that is in the U.S. That means Facebook’s out-sold the entire U.S. newspaper industry, which took in about $3.5 billion in online advertising.Read More »
Mar 15, 2013
At a time when so much of the news industry seems in flux, the FT has managed a steady-as-she-goes transition into the digital age arguably better than anyone else. While it occupies an enviable global business news niche, the ingredients of its relative success are ones that can be mixed and matched into all kinds of recipes — metro, regional, or local; daily or weekly; newspaper or magazine. It’s not otherworldly magic that’s happening at the FT. It’s just ahead-of-the-pack thinking that has given it a headstart — and now gives it the ability to build second and third generations of its digital business. It is now where fast followers will be in two to five years.
Make no mistake: The FT hasn’t quite cracked the code yet. It’s profitable, but not by that much. In 2012, the FT Group, which includes the FT, Mergermarket, and 50 percent of The Economist, registered an 11 percent profit margin or £49 million. It is reducing and re-skilling its staff. Further, it’s been subject to new “for sale” rumors, though John Fallon, the new CEO of parent company Pearson, has recently denied that likelihood. Fallon’s recent take on how 2013 will turn is painfully familiar to all in the business: “We expect the FT Group to benefit from continued growth in digital and subscription revenues in 2013, but advertising to remain weak and volatile with profits reflecting further actions to accelerate the shift from print to digital.”
All that said, given its digital transition, I believe it is far more likely to successfully cross over to the new age than other publishers.Read More »
Mar 8, 2013
Why paywalls now? Why weren’t paywalls put into place in 2007, or 2002, or 1997?
Might such paywalls have prevented the massive loss of reporting that local papers — and local readers — have suffered? Would they have saved a good number of the more than 15,000 newsroom jobs (a 28 percent decline since 2001) that have evaporated? Might the global bureaus of the big metros been spared? Would regional business news coverage be as robust as it was in the 1990s? Would investigative units be off the endangered species list?Read More »
Mar 1, 2013
We’ve see “marketing services” grow as a business pursuit over the past couple of years. Now — as newspaper publishers have just left the “Key Executives Mega-Conference” in New Orleans, where such services led off the weekend with a three-hour session — we can characterize it as the number one new business pursuit of many U.S. newspaper chains. It’s the new initiative they are most heavily investing in. In fact, in surveying the field, I’m estimating that marketing services revenue could equal at least 10 percent of newspaper company ad revenue — pushing $2 billion — by 2016. Aspirationally, this is the third leg of newspaper revenue — after advertising and circulation revenue — publishers know they need.Read More »
Feb 22, 2013
Make no mistake: 2013, as your friendly newspaper realtors would tell you, is a great time to sell. The last 18 months have seen the greatest volume of deals in the last five years. And, why not: There’s a mildly up economy, all-access is bolstering revenue optimism, and heck, the Oracle himself, Warren Buffett, is buying newspapers by the dozen. The only problem for sellers is that prices haven’t moved much up. The newspaper market looks a lot like the nation’s housing markets: There’s a better balance of buyers and sellers, yes, but prices haven’t picked up much from their bottoms.
Still, for the Times Company, it’s time to let its impressive little brother go.Read More »
Feb 15, 2013
The New York Times Co.’s zero, in fact, is actually a milestone number. It’s the first increase, however meager, in overall revenues since 2006, when it managed a 1.8 percent increase in revenues…..Overall, the zero plateau provides at least the illusion of a resting point. A point from which to figure out how to find growth, or at least how not to go negative again. That’s the company Mark Thompson has inherited; his job: find life above zero.Read More »