OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 02/25/2013 By Mark Glaser & Courtney Lowery Cowgill

Papers that aren’t dying and why

If there is a paper that could be the poster child for the tumultuous last decade for daily news, it could be the Boston Globe. The regional powerhouse has had mixed success under the ownership of The New York Times Co., which recently put the paper up for sale. The Globe has had some success with its pay wall, with 28,000 digital-only subscribers—but some say it’s not enough. The paper isn’t alone. Last year, the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) embarked on a year-long journey to research the state of the newspaper business model. While Pew found newspapers struggling to close the gap between lost print ads with digital ones, but it also found newspapers that are surviving – even thriving. And given the right owners and situation, the Globe could be among them.

PEJ found that the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in California, the Columbia Daily Herald in Tennessee, the Deseret News in Utah and the Naples Daily News in Florida are all doing just fine. But why? “These success stories share some common characteristics such as risk-taking leadership, a commitment to remaking the internal culture and a push to improve the editorial product. Yet, they all introduced different innovations, tailored to the particulars of that market,” the Pew authors wrote. The Naples Daily News overhauled its sales force and saw overall revenue growth the last two years. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat launched a digital agency that offers online marketing services to customers. The “Media Lab” made up 25 percent of the paper’s digital revenue in its first year and this year is expected to grow revenue by 60 percent. In Tennessee, the Columbia Daily Herald kept overall revenue losses at about 2 percent in 2012 – well below the national average and in an area hit hard by the economic downturn. And in Utah, the Deseret News has grown digital revenue more than 40 percent per year since 2010. PaidContent’s Matthew Ingram has four takeaways from the report: “Separate the traditional and digital businesses, know your market, try almost everything and go big or go home.”