Operating a business today, in this economic environment is truly a challenge. And while many businesses and workers await a return to the good days, they need to realize that those days have past. This economy is not a short term slump, it’s the new reality. As a nation we’ve lost jobs that may never come back because technology, consumer needs and businesses practice have forever been changed. The future may never look like the past.
That doesn’t mean everything we know will go away and be replaced by something else. It only means we must all re-position ourselves to be more aligned with the changes taking place all around us. Old skills slowly become obsolete and new skills are required to meet the demands of the future. As such every business must look at the needs of their customers and be prepared to anticipate those changing needs in order to be successful.
Given some of the bad press newspapers have received in recent years, I’ve come across two interesting reports that I would like to share with you. The first from the National Newspaper Association. Unlike reports of the declining circulation from America’s top 100 or 250 newspapers the news from America’s 8,000 community newspapers paints a very different picture that you may not have heard.
The following survey details have been compiled over the last four years by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism:
Eighty-one percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week. Those readers, on average, share their newspaper with 2.36 additional readers. Community newspaper readers spend about 40 minutes with their paper, while 73 percent read most or all of their community newspaper. Nearly 40 percent keep their community newspaper more than a week (shelf life).
Three-quarters of readers read local news often to very often in their community newspaper while 53 percent say they never read local news online. Of those going online for local news, 63 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 12 percent on the website of a local television station.
Seventy-nine percent say they prefer to look at newspaper ads over ads watched on TV. Sixty-nine percent find that advertising inserts help them make purchasing decisions.
The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 60 percent of respondents: that’s four times greater than the second and third most popular sources of local news (TV/14 percent and friends and relatives/13.4 percent). Readers are 10 times more likely to get their news from their community newspaper than from the Internet (5.8 percent). Less than 5 percent say their primary local news source is radio.
Many of these statistics mirror the results our community newspapers have seen from CVC readership surveys taken locally each year.
Combine that report with a recent article in the October issue Newspaper & Technology Magazine commenting on a Newspaper Association of America report suggesting that daily newspapers convert to weekly newspapers. The article highlights three key realities.
Reality No.1: Reader frequency and consumption of printed products continue to decline. Reality No. 2: Advertisers do not market their products or services every day. Reality No. 3: Daily newspapers don’t necessarily attract a larger user base to their websites, as the author notes he has plenty of examples where local weekly audiences are not only as strong, but also more loyal in terms of repeat visits.
The bottom line to all these statistics and strategies for those of us in the business of publishing a community newspaper is akin to reading tea leaves. While many things are changing, know that at Denton Publications, we are digesting information from many sources to insure we keep abreast of the best ways to bring you your community news, be it on paper, online or some other method.
So the next time you hear about furloughs at other newspapers, cutbacks in staffing, reduction of publishing days, bankruptcies, or as Rupert Murdock’s Shareholders Group told him earlier this week “the competitive advantage that newspapers had has been competed away” when recommending they sell all their newspaper holdings, please keep in mind that the community newspaper in your hands or on your screen has chosen to accept the challenges of the future rather than throw in the towel. What we do is more than a casual investment it’s all about our lives and our service to the residents we call neighbors and communities we call home.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.