Rick Edmonds

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Researcher and writer for Poynter Institute on business and journalism issues. Co author, State of the News Media 2006. ExSP Times and Phil Inquirer


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Can a magazine live forever? Scientific American, at 170, is giving it a shot

The oldest continuously published magazine in the United States, Scientific American, is marking its 170th birthday this week — cause for a promotional celebration at its New York offices Wednesday night and also an occasion to look at the title’s secrets to longevity.

To get a little Darwinian, the publication had a strong, sustaining concept from the start, stuck with that idea for the long haul, but also adapted with variations as times changed.

Mariette DiChristina

Mariette DiChristina

The first issue in 1845, editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina reminded me in a phone interview, carried as a subtitle, “The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and Other Improvements.”

The current media kit claims that Scientific American’s eclectic mix of readers, “all have one thing in common – a thirst for visionary, optimistic and science-based solutions in a world filled with complexities and fluff.”  Same point as in 1845 but with a 21st Century spin. Read more

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New York Times Co. reports big progress in digital for the second quarter

The New York Times Co. had the same print advertising woes as the rest of the industry — with revenues down 13 percent year to year in the second quarter. But with strong digital performance, reported today,  it held total revenue loss to just 1.5 percent.

That, combined with a reduction in expenses, allowed the company to earn net income of $16.4 million on revenues of $382.9 million for the quarter, a profit margin of about 4 percent.

Digital-only subscriptions passed the one million mark. And the company expects to grow that total by 35,000 more in the third quarter.

CEO Mark Thompson said in a conference call with analysts that the Times’ push to sell more international subscriptions, started last year, is paying off. Those now account for 13 percent of the total. Read more

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A new snapshot of the profession from 10,000 J-school grads

A massive survey of two generations of journalism and communications graduates, released this morning, finds a mix of attitudes about where the profession is headed but high degrees of satisfaction with their own work and the quality of their education.

The American Press Institute’s “Facing Change” study, done jointly with 22 journalism schools, finds a third of the graduates saying they practice journalism. But many do so for commercial brands, government or political entities or entrepreneurial and tech firms. Only 41 percent of the group doing journalism work for traditional media companies.

Only 17 percent said the quality of news they see has been improving in the last five years, but 61 percent think the quality of their own journalism has gotten better over that period. Read more

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A hidden success story — for newspaper circulation, costs are down and revenues are up

To the widely accepted notion that the newspaper business is going to hell in a bucket, here is a curious exception: circulation revenues (and profits) have risen over the last several years at the same time expenses have been substantially reduced.

The particulars of the case are laid out in the 15th edition of a data-heavy Newspaper of Association of America report, Circulation Facts and Figures, released this week (free to NAA members only).

Among 175 papers responding to a NAA survey, the median “bottom-line contribution” of circulation had risen from 42.6 percent in 2011 to 56.1 percent last year. That’s not the same thing as a profit margin — since circulation (like advertising) must produce revenues well above that department’s operating expenses to carry other parts of the enterprise like the newsroom and pressroom. Read more

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The New York Times goes native with video advertising

The New York Times. (AP Photo)

The New York Times. (AP Photo)

The New York Times plans to introduce a video version of native advertising this fall, tailored to smartphone display and with presentation formats targeted to specific times of the day.

The new offering goes by the slightly highfalutin label “Mobile Moments.” According a Times news release this morning, the commercial content will emphasize storytelling, often with an entertaining or inspiring component. These will be produced either by advertisers themselves or by the same 40-person T Brand Studio that already does text-based native ads (which the Times call “paid posts”).

Sebastian Tomich, senior vice president of advertising and innovation, who runs the Times native advertising effort, told Ad Age the new format (which will include variants like graphics or interactives) is an antidote to irritating and not very effective interstitial banners that display poorly on smartphones. Read more

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Newspaper industry lost 3,800 full-time editorial professionals in 2014

The American Society of News Editors annual newsroom census, released this morning, found that job losses accelerated in 2014, falling by more than 10 percent in a single year.

The net job loss of 3,800 brings the total number of news professionals to 32,900 — with additional losses clearly taking place so far in 2015.  That total is down just over 40 per cent from a pre-recession peak of 55,000 in 2006.

It’s the biggest single year drop since the industry was shedding more than 10,000 jobs in 2007 and 2008.  The comparable figure for 2013 was 1,300 jobs and 2,600 in 2012.

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The survey began in 1978 to track progress in improving diversity in newspapers’ newsrooms and leadership ranks and continues to embrace that mission. Read more

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Print advertising slump bites digitally oriented Advance too

As Advance publications began dropping print frequency and betting its newspapers’ future on digital ad sales five years ago, part of the premise was that print advertising would only continue to decline — and by a lot, not a little.

Correct. But the industry’s particularly nasty level of print losses in the first half of 2015 have nipped financial results at Advance along with the rest. In his latest biannual letter to employees, Advance Local President Randy Siegel backed off his claim of six months ago that digital ad gains this year will surpass print losses.

He concedes in the letter that newspaper declines have been “steeper than we budgeted for.” Siegel told me in a phone interview that the goal for growing ad revenue overall remains and some of Advance’s 25 markets will experience the revenue crossover, but added “I can’t guarantee that we will get it done in all of them.”

In the letter, dated July 15, Siegel continues:

The proverbial “silver lining” here is that as more of our readers and advertisers transition to digital platforms and products, we are better positioned than ever to meet their diverse needs.

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McClatchy reports precipitous print ad declines again for second quarter

McClatchy, in the doghouse with investors for most of the year, reported another disappointing quarter today, eking out a profit of $98,000 on $262 million in revenues.

Despite growing digital ad revenues, holding circulation revenues even and reducing debt and interest payments compared to the same quarter a year ago, the results were dragged down by a 12.5 percent decline in total advertising revenues.

McClatchy is first among the public newspapers to report for the second quarter so drops of nearly the same magnitude seem likely at other companies.  As Gannett (which will report Wednesday) indicated as it spun off to a separate newspaper company a month ago, second quarter ad revenues have been weak there as well.

McClatchy said print advertising declines for the quarter were 16.3 percent. Read more

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5 quick thoughts on the sale of the Financial Times — a logical deal now that we see it

Most big-deal acquisitions, however unexpected, make sense once they are in place. And the sale of the Financial Times, though quickly consummated since first reports Sunday, was not all that surprising.

Here are my quick thoughts on why Japanese Nikkei won the trophy newspaper and what may happen next:

  • No longer a fit: As Pearson has become an education company with smaller news holdings, it needs to concentrate on its primary business. The FT group has some specialized financial products but nothing on the scale of Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters — or Nikkei for that matter. There are few synergies with the education unit.In retrospect, the sale may have been telegraphed two years ago when CEO John Fallon, who had been running the education unit’s international business, succeeded American-born Marjorie Scardino, whose roots were in publishing, particularly The Economist (in which Pearson retains a 50 percent interest for now).
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Intrigue in Utah — Will the Salt Lake Tribune be sold? Or even closed?

Jim Dabakis inside a downtown Salt Lake City coffee shop.  (AP 2011 file photo/Lynn DeBruin)

Jim Dabakis inside a downtown Salt Lake City coffee shop. (AP 2011 file photo/Lynn DeBruin)

Politician and blogger Jim Dabakis got his Utah constituents and others talking last week when he reported that the Salt Lake Tribune will soon be sold.

Dabakis also worried that such a sale could be a step toward an eventual closing or put the paper under the control of its Joint Operating Agreement partner and competitor, the Deseret News, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

There are good reasons for media watchers nationally — not just Salt Lake City residents — to watch how the drama plays out:

  • The JOA is one of only five remaining agreements after the Charleston (WVa.) Gazette and Mail announced today that they are merging editorial operations and will print a single paper.
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