Perhaps the flagging economy and steep drop in print revenues added up to a blessing in disguise — by hastening the news industry's inevitable turn toward the digital age.
I do believe the facts and economic realities are settling into the print media as it relates to their revenues and bottom lines. Acknowledging these realities is a great thing, I might add.
We are hearing more statements along the lines of, “This is the new normal,” or “The future is now,” throughout the industry.
By and large, gone are the days of believing that lost print revenues will return. Most understand and agree our current and projected economy will not allow that to happen. We need to — and have — embraced the new normal.
Along with the downfall of the economy, we experienced the rise of the digital age. The perfect storm had arrived, and print was hammered relentlessly on all fronts. In hindsight, many tended to attribute the demise of the print industry to the rise of online and digital.
I would argue that point.
While online/digital opportunities have certainly grown, I haven’t seen our local advertisers sprint into the digital age. Certainly, digital revenues seem to validate that viewpoint.
In a short period of time, our industry lost more than half its revenue, and I would submit that is due in large part to the economic trends and conditions that have occurred and are continuing.
That said, maybe the perfect storm was a blessing in disguise because it helped to ensure our industry embraced the digital age, which is indeed coming. I would argue that had we lost only 10% of our revenue base over the past few years, we wouldn’t be quite as quickly embracing what we must: the digital age. As it is, some might suggest that we were very late to the party.
All of the above is history, however. I have never seen a better time with more opportunity for our industry than we have before us now. Yes, there are many new players in the game, and the playing field has been leveled in many areas. That aside, news media companies still have the edge on the local level that none can compete with.
We have been provided a clean canvas for our inner innovative artists to make their own.
They often say it is darkest right before dawn. I would suggest the darkest days are behind those now willing to harness the entrepreneurial spirit and take hold of what is before us.
What are some of the things that lay before us?
E-commerce: Leveraging our brands to be the trusted e-commerce players in our communities can be huge. I don’t mean advertising solutions, which we can certainly offer; I mean a virtual store where locals can transact business online locally, with the trusted news media company getting a small piece of each transaction.
Events: What business is better situated in the community to offer, promote, and pull off events? The average cost to advertise and promote local events is about 20-30% of the event budget. News media companies can do that for next to nothing, bringing that 20-30% to the bottom line, as well as keeping those dollars in the local community. A real win-win!
Content providers: We need to think outside the box and understand that our talents are such to be used by others, as well. Break down the walls between the editorial side of the business and the business side of the business, and new revenue opportunities are abundant.
List and e-marketing: Who in the community has a better localised list of potential customers? News media companies need to actively pursue ways in which to monetise one of their most valuable resources.
Investing in other business ventures: News media companies need to branch out into other business sectors and utilise their valuable resources to elevate other business opportunities.
Example: Having a hard time capturing real estate dollars? Hire your own broker and open a real estate company. Just think of the marketing ability you have at your disposal.
Another example: Need to truck your newspapers from a remote printing site? Open a Penske or U-Haul business to cover those costs and make a few bucks renting to others.
None of these ideas is new. They are being done on a very limited basis throughout the industry right now. The opportunities have never been better, and the time has never been more appropriate than right now.
As I have said many times, we are looking directly at the “innovator’s dilemma.” Just one question remains: Who is staring back?
The Satisfying Audiences Blog aims to reflect print and digital content not just across platforms but extending into consumer events, non-news-related subscriptions and other audience vehicles for newsmedia companies. This blog written by INMA members is dedicated to identifying the emerging linkages between content, audiences, and platforms. The blog is an initiative by the INMA North America Division Board of Directors.