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Jan 5, 2009

2009 Opening Bell - Newspaper Lunacy versus Reality Check

Ed: 2009 will be the wake-up call for print publishers. The majority cannot earn enough to sustain the high cost of print and print distribution. 

Publishers have no choice. They must grow and successfully monetize their online properties. How?

US: print-only local paper's success

As newspapers struggle to make websites profitable and some abandon their print products and move online-only, one US paper has successfully adopted a very different approach: don't put anything online. 

TriCityNews publisher and owner Dan Jacobson put it simply: "I don't understand how putting content on the Web would do anything but help destroy our paper," as giving away content would presumably mean that people would have no need to buy the print copy.  

And his theory seems to be working.  The Monmouth County, New Jersey weekly paper has been growing at a rate of about ten per cent a year since its founding in 1999, and is significantly profitable. It keeps advertising costs low, with a loyal base of advertisers, and employs just 3.5 people. 

US: three publications moving online-only

The Kansas City Kansan has announced that it is to discontinue its print edition and move to online only.  The final print edition will be on January 10 and the paper will launch a revamped Web site on January 7.

General Manager Drew Savage explained that the move to online only was to save on overheads and allow for more investment in electronic media.  He insisted that the Kansan would continue to thrive with "a lot more content than we have ever had," and pointed out that online readership is ten times greater than for the print edition. 

AsianWeek, a San Francisco free sheet aimed at Asian Americans has also announced the demise of its print edition, with the final copy to come out on Friday.  It will continue to publish online, and its editor and publisher Ted Fang attributed the move to economic hardship.  

Newspaper Roundup: NYT; Lee; Gannett; Hoy; AsianWeek; Pew Research

imageCBS makes NYT's front page (in an ad): Trying to stave of further ad revenue declines, the NYT has accepted its first display ad on the front page of the print edition from CBS (NYSE: CBS). The ad, which is two-and-a-half inches high, runs below the fold across the bottom of the page. The NYT did not disclose rates for ads on the front page. The decision to open up the front page to ads was paved last year, when NYTimes.com began running ads on the home page.

Despite default dangers, Lee maintains healthy op profit: The Davenport, Iowa publisher may have just ended '08 with an $879 million net income loss, but Alan D. Mutter says Lee "still produces a larger operating profit, percentage-wise, than Exxon." While Lee remains "reasonably robust," it's not as strong as it used to be and it might not be strong enough to pay the $142.5 million debt payment due this spring.

Cincinnati Enq. cuts back on classifieds: Facing the difficult reality of less and less help wanteds, real estate and auto ads, the Gannett (NYSE: GCI) paper will cease publishing print classifieds on Mondays and Wednesdays. And as an additional way to reduce newsprint and ink costs, The Cincinnati Enquirer will shrink its page format and condense some of it sections. The moves follow a second round of layoffs at the paper this month and the word that Gannett's Detroit Free Press and its partner, The Detroit News, are scaling back on home delivery.

Hoy New York goes web-only: Print troubles aren't limited to the general market newspapers. Free Spanish-language daily Hoy New York is going web-only just before the end of 2008. The shuttering of the print version resulted in 16 layoffs. Hoy was sold by Tribune Company to ImpreMedia in Feb. 2007.

AsianWeek ceases print publication: Across the country from Hoy, the San Francisco-based daily aimed at Asia Pacific readers will go online-only as well. The paper said it had a circulation of nearly 60,000. Although the 30-year-old AsianWeek is abandoning daily print, it will occasionally publish special newspaper editions.

Web overtakes print as news source: But TV is still way ahead of both mediums when it comes to news consumption, according to a report(PDF) from the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press. About 40 percent of 1,013 people surveyed by Pew late last month said they get most of their national and international news from the internet, up from just 24 percent in September 2007. For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they relied more on the web for news than newspapers (35%), while TV remains way ahead at 70 percent. While Pew refers to "newspapers" in its survey, it's clear that respondents are talking about print, but it doesn't mean that "online newspapers" are losing ground against other formats.

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