Early last year many members of the newspaper industry nationwide became more than a little bit frustrated by the never-ending flow of negative, doom and gloom stories swirling around our industry, and some people decided to fight back.
Donna Barrett, president and chief executive officer of Alabama-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., which owns 89 community dailies, worked with a group of newspaper publishers to launch the Newspaper Project - a Web site that tells the other side of the story - that newspapers will survive.
Other initiatives including the Committee for Sustainable Journalism, The Next Newsroom Project, and ReInventing Classifieds, were launched by other groups of newspaper publishers who acknowledge the challenges facing the newspaper industry in today’s rapidly changing media world, but who reject the notion that newspapers - and the valuable content that newspaper journalists provide - have no future.
So the New York Press Association board of directors decided that New York’s newspapers should throw our collective hats into the ring and mount a concerted effort to provide a more balanced perspective on what’s happening in the newspaper industry, and to remind people that accurate, fact-checked newspaper reporting remains essential to our democratic system of government, serving as a watchdog against corruption and government secrecy and as a provider of information that helps ordinary citizens to make informed decisions.
So we teamed up with one of the most creative advertising agencies in New York City and separately partnered with one of the most savvied public relations firms in the City and we developed a plan to address the continuing drama.
The steady drumbeat in our planned year-long advertising and public relations campaign is that newspapers’ value to the community remains strong.
Before we outline the nuts and bolts of the plan, let me share with you a few facts about New York’s newspapers:
New York’s community newspapers generate almost $1B in annual revenues;
employ more than 10,000 people,
generate more than $500M in annual payroll dollars;
pay property taxes in several hundred municipalities,
provide health insurance for thousands of workers and their families,
purchase office supplies, equipment, utilities, and spend more than $35M annually with local post offices for the delivery of New York’s community newspapers.
You might be interested to know that in January, 2000, NYPA’s database listed 588 weekly community newspapers, including 49 culturally specific newspapers.
Total distribution was 7.2M -
3.9M free distribution and
In January, 2010, NYPA’s database lists 727 weekly community newspapers, including 129 culturally specific newspapers, and total distribution is 11.6M.-
379 paid circulation newspapers with a total distribution of 3.8M
348 free distribution newspapers with a total distribution of 7.7M
These numbers do not include pennysavers or shoppers.
In addition, 55 paid circulation daily newspapers are published in New York, with a combined distribution of 5M
3 free distribution dailies are published in NYC with a combined distribution of 571,000
129 culturally specific newspapers published in NY have a combined distribution of 4.2M
and these numbers do not include the additional audience delivered by your newspapers’ affiliated Web sites.
So the recent hysteria over the imminent demise of newspapers is grossly overstated. Newspapers do face a genuine crisis, but the nature of the crisis is misunderstood.
Community newspapers don’t have an audience problem - we have a revenue problem.
Some newspaper companies took on debt that can’t be serviced in this economy, and many of those same companies are dealing with push back from share holders seeking greater profits and a higher return on their investment. And some major market newspapers have become unprofitable under the combined burden of antiquated cost structures and new competitors - both off and online.
Until recently, many newspaper companies had profit margins exceeding 30%. By 2008 the industry’s margin had fallen to the mid teens - but doing worse doesn’t mean doing badly. Many newspapers still have almost double the profitability of other media sectors such as movies, music, and books - which have long struggled to achieve margins of even 10%.
But it is a handful of national newspaper companies that are garnering all of this negative attention, and one way or another, the capital structure crises at these companies will be resolved - by paying the debt over time, by negotiating with creditors, or by bankruptcy. And the newspaper industry will move on.
Because amid all the drama, all the talk of blogs, social media, and mobile distribution, another trend is emerging - and that is America’s increasingly urgent desire for local news.
There is a reason that 140 more newspapers are published in New York today than there were 10 years ago - and the unique local content provided by community newspapers is the reason.
If you want an example of how erroneous un-fact-checked 'reporting' gets repeated over and over, look no further than the newspaper industry itself. Ask the average New Yorker if there are more or fewer newspapers today than 10 years ago, and nine times out of 10 you'll hear fewer. The fact remains that there are 140 more newspapers in NY today than 10 years ago. That's a fact that has gone largely un-reported.
Did you know that 86M Americans read a community newspaper every week, and that the newspaper audience on a daily basis is larger than the audience for the Super Bowl?
For the first phase of the campaign we have created nine print ads that promote the ongoing role of newspapers in local communities. We have also purchased a schedule of companion transit ads that are presently displayed at station stops, in train cars, in-station kiosks, on Amtrak , Metro North , the Long Island Railroad and on bus panels.
Simultaneously, we are distributing op ed pieces, statistics, and analysis stories. This is our first news conference, the second news conference is scheduled for April 9th and will take place in Westchester, hosted by the Westchester County Executive. News conferences are also planned in Nassau County and in Manhattan, with others to follow.
We are also planning a statewide radio contest and a series of mobile billboard campaigns. The total value of the campaign effort thus far is estimated at $4M.