The Transformation of Newspapers to Multi-Media Publishers
December 15, 2012 1 Comment
It’s no secret that the market for local and regional newspapers has been in decline for years, as publications lose ground to blogs, online media and select few larger publications. We’ve all read the articles and seen the dire predictions. Newspaper circulation numbers are at an all-time low and there is not a lot of optimism for the industry. Rapidly declining advertising revenues continue to be the industry’s core problem. The losses in 2011 were slightly worse than those of 2010—7.3% compared to 6.3%. Incredibly enough, ad revenues are now less than half what they were in 2006.
Sure, it’s true that online revenues are growing. But the problem is that print losses far exceed online gains. In fact, for 2011, the ratio was more than ten to one. In the last two years, revenue lost in print is nowhere close to being replaced by digital gains (State of the News Media 2012).
So what does this mean for the newspapers Affinity Express serves and is there any hope? The short answer is, yes, there is hope. What follows is the longer answer.
Although the core of the journalism industry is certainly changing, this does not mean that it’s for the worse. The movement toward more dynamic, independent online publications will actually help support big and small newspapers. Even more important, it will create an entirely new world for readers—one that is more streamlined, up-to-date and interactive. The news will become more relevant and focused on what we want to learn.
The shift also means that information is flowing more quickly and freely than ever. Digital subscriptions to North American newspapers now are available all around the world. Plus, instead of being limited to twice-daily reporting in the morning and evening, there is a constant stream of new information for anyone with a computer, smartphone or tablet. We news junkies can O.D. all day long!
Industry experts point out that physical delivery, such as newspapers, books, magazines, discs, will no longer be the primary or most profitable means of interacting with media. This is happening not because print is bad, but because digital is so much better. It has the advantages of ubiquity, speed, permanence, searchability, easy updates, targeting, interaction, data feedback, etc. Digital transcends the limitations and incorporates the best of individual media. As a result, there will be less print and the old dominance of print over online will be reversed. As long as you are not taking away the potential for me to read things in print, this doesn’t sound so bad to me.
It is also important to remember that, despite the significant drop in revenues, there was $23.9 billion dollars in newspaper advertising revenue in 2011, which is more than three times what all of social media generates annually (Hmm, what does Zuckerberg think of this?).
Here are some other relevant statistics to put things in perspective (many from a presentation by South Carolina Newspaper Network):
- Publishers realized $3.2 billion in web ad revenue through their digital products offerings in 2011.
- Online, newspaper media attracted nearly 114 million unique visitors in January 2012, reaching 65% of all internet users with 4.3 billion page views.
- Despite conventional wisdom, newspapers are reaching young adults. A recent Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer study showed that, among 18‐34 year olds, 70% read newspapers in print and 54% read newspapers online. Scarborough data confirms that nearly 60% read a newspaper in print or online in the past week. The web audience for publishers among 18‐24 year olds exceeds that of popular sites including CNN, AOL, YAHOO, MSNBC and more.
- Nearly 20 million adults are accessing newspaper content on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) each month.
- A recent comScore study conducted for the Newspaper Association of America found that local newspaper websites ranked first among adults as the most complete source of local information compared to online portals, social networking sites, specialty websites and local TV and radio sites. News sites also ranked first as the source most used and the most informative source for local information, sports, entertainment and classifieds.
- Further, newspapers are showing dramatic growth in mobile use. From 2010 to 2011, mobile unique visitors have increased by 70% and mobile page views are up 65%.
- From an advertising perspective, local newspapers are moving fast into the world of digital marketing services. No longer can newspapers only sell print ads and banner campaigns to the local business community. Web development, social media and email marketing are just some of the services being offered. We see newspapers becoming full-service digital agencies for local accounts including network buying, reputation management, SEO and SEM and more. The great news (hah!) is that newspapers are far out in front of this opportunity to serve advertisers with a diverse array of options, whereas television and radio are just now waking up to this tactic.
But something else that is exciting is that newspaper advertising continues to perform for customers. This past Thanksgiving, newspapers reported their inserts packages were more robust than any year in recent memory. Even e-tailer Amazon used newspaper advertising to drive online traffic, expanding on newspapers’ traditional strength of driving traffic to brick and mortar stores! Research conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates reported that 79% of all U.S. adults took action as a result of an ad in a newspaper in the past 30 days. Not just newspaper readers, all adults!
When most people think of newspapers, they think print, yet, in 2012, newspaper media is about a multi‐platform, multi‐media series of locally dominant information products. In modern, technological terms, newspapers serve up aggregated, curated, hyper‐local content and deliver it directly to consumers. That has always been important and it continues to be valuable. Today, newspapers deliver advertising on all fronts with creative integrated approaches to further meet customer needs. Publishers become more competitive by transforming to multi-media publishers and serving as local digital agencies.