Rick Edmonds

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


Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

As The New York Times debuts its template for native ads, will other newspapers follow?

When The New York Times offered the first native ad on its website Jan. 8, reviews were mixed. Some thought the Times offered too much of a good thing with a half-dozen disclaimers that the story-like piece was advertising. Others opined that despite all the labels, the Times was stepping down the road to perdition hosting paid content from computer giant Dell.

I’d say each side has a point, but the bigger question is whether the Times way, like its approach to a digital paywall three years ago, will set the pattern for the newspaper industry’s belated foray into the hot native format.

In a brief phone interview, Caroline Little, president of the Newspaper Association of America, agreed with my assessment that newspaper organizations are eagerly exploring the possibilities but have barely started yet with native ads and other forms of sponsored content.… Read more

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In this July 14, 2010 file photo, the sign for Gannett headquarters is displayed in McLean, Va. Gannett said Thursday, June 13, 2013, it reached a deal to buy TV station owner Belo for about $1.5 billion in cash, significantly boosting its presence in broadcasting. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file)

Gannett earnings report hints at a coming problem with paywalls

By virtue of tough expense control and the acquisition of Belo Corp. TV stations, Gannett reported decent fourth quarter and full-year financial results yesterday. Its share price was off .06 percent for the day.

But the report included some dicey details for the company’s newspaper operations, suggesting challenges ahead for Gannett and the industry in 2014.

Circulation revenues were up for the year (1.1 percent) but down for the fourth quarter (-1.6 percent) compared to the same period in 2012. CEO Gracia Martore explained in a conference call to analysts that the company has now “cycled through” the lucrative introduction of paywalls together with bundled print + digital subscriptions at its 80 community newspapers.

This raises the concern that capturing revenue from new digital subscribers and pairing “all access” print/digital bundles with a big price increase could be a one-time revenue event.… Read more

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Magazines, including a Rolling Stone issue featuring president-elect Barack Obama, are displayed at a newsstand Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Magazine industry ad decline slowing, but 4th quarter not good

The final tally came in this week for print magazine advertising in 2013. It is the typical good news/bad news scenario.

Ad pages — the industry’s traditional measure — were down 4.1 percent for the year. That could be read as a step forward from 2012 when the decline was 8.2 percent.

Quarterly year-to-year comparisons had improved through the year, with the third quarter off just 1.8 percent compared to a year earlier, the best performance in two years. But the fourth quarter headed back the wrong way, off 4.8 percent, indicating marketing budget cuts at year’s end and perhaps a below par holiday season.

The weak fourth quarter at magazines suggests that newspaper ad results for the period, which will be reported by public companies in February and for the industry in March will probably soften too.… Read more

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For newspaper stocks, 2013 was a surprisingly good year

Despite yet another year of falling revenues, publicly traded newspaper companies saw their share prices rise sharply during 2013.

Yes, the overall market was strong — with the S&P index up 29.5 percent and the Dow Jones up 26.5 percent.

Yes, as I and others have noted, local broadcasting is thriving with two of the next three years bringing political and Olympics advertising bonanzas and retransmission fees a continuing windfall. Gannett, E.W. Scripps and Journal Communications all benefited from their TV holdings.… Read more

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Stock table

Company         2012 Close    2013 close    Percent change

Gannett                $18.01           $29.59          64.4%

E.W. Scripps          10.81              21.70         100.7

New York Times       8.53              15.87           86.0

A.H. Belo                   4.65               7.43             59.8

Journal                      5.41                9.30            71.9

McClatchy                  3.27                3.39             3.7

Lee                             1.14                3.48           205.3

Source: Yahoo financeRead more

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Advance Local president: ‘signs of success are everywhere’

Privately held Advance has been mostly mum on the results of its cutback of print editions in most markets and the relaunch of its newspapers as digital media companies. But in a year-end letter to employees, Advance Local President Randy Siegel partly answers one key questions skeptics like me have been posing:

Most of our new organizations are rapidly increasing their digital revenue and approaching the point where digital ad revenue growth will be larger than print ad revenue declines. This positions us well for the future given the inexorable shift of print advertising dollars to digital. When we started launching our new companies, growing digital ad revenue faster than losing print ad revenue was one of our preeminent goals and we are getting there sooner than expected.

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Newspapers will lose a half of their share of digital advertising in the next five years, Borrell Associates forecasts. (Depositphotos)

Forecast: Papers will lose more than half their share of digital ads in next 5 years

With all the talk of newspapers as dinosaurs, you might be surprised to know that they will close 2013 retaining their position as the leader among legacy platforms in share of digital advertising revenue, according to Borrell Associates’ annual review and forecast.

But as Borrell looks ahead, the industry’s digital ad prospects are alarmingly weak. By 2018, the consulting firm predicts, newspapers share of all digital advertising will fall by more than half — from 7.1 percent in 2013 to 3.3 percent in 2018.… Read more

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Federal Trade Commission will put native advertising under the microscope Wednesday

I am wondering these days whether native advertising is truly a breakthrough format and has financial legs to underwrite a volume of quality digital journalism. But the Federal Trade Commission has a narrower focus for its one-day workshop in Washington Wednesday: are consumers being confused and potentially misled?

This is a staff-led information gathering session. FTC commissioners may attend but most likely will not. There will be no on-the-spot action or even findings.… Read more

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The Chronicle of Higher Education launches a new jobs site for academics.

Chronicle of Higher Ed takes plunge with digital jobs site tailored to academics

I mostly buy into the theory that one reason newspaper organizations have typically made modest rather than big bets on new digital businesses is the wild success they enjoyed over decades under their old model.

So when Michael Riley, installed in May as CEO and editor-in-chief of the Chronicle of Higher Education, told me 10 days ago that it was launching what he hopes will be a breakout new digital service, I wanted to hear more. In its little bailiwick, the Chronicle has had as sweet a sustained run of business and editorial success as any newspaper I can think of.

Nearing its 50th birthday, the publication had the equivalent of a garage start-up. Corbin Gwaltney, the editor of the John Hopkins alumni magazine, organized his peers at other elite colleges to pool coverage of trends and happenings in the academy.… Read more

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Cover art from Knight Foundation's report on nonprofit news startups. (Knight Foundation)

Knight Foundation support for nonprofit news startups shifts focus to growth, sustainability

The Knight Foundation has released a detailed new report today arguing that well-run nonprofit news sites can weather their growing pains and operate at break-even or better.

The report itself has a wealth of statistics on 18 selected sites, all operating for at least three years, but I found the subtext even more interesting.

To those venturing to launch nonprofit sites, the good news is that the turn from start-up funding to new and diversified sources of revenue can be done.

To potential foundation funders, the message is that these sites do important work and have a realistic chance to be in business and expanding in three to five years after initial grants have run out.

Though the sites were chosen as examples of good practice, they together showed revenue growth of 30 percent over the three-year period, 2010-2012. … Read more

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