Biz Blog: Rick Edmonds analyzes the latest media business developments.

A USA Today newspaper box is shown in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

USA Today’s two-year strategic overhaul gains traction

(This case study, the fourth in an occasional series, was underwritten by a grant from the Stibo Foundation.)

USA Today has probably changed more in the last two years than in its previous 30.

Always a circulation-driven enterprise, the paper now has a radically different audience strategy, substituting mobile app traffic for the rapidly falling readership of its legacy print edition and folding a new condensed USA Today section into the largest 35 of Gannett’s 81 community newspapers.

Publisher Larry Kramer and his hand-picked editor, David Callaway, brought several decades of digital experience to the formidable task of finally breaking away from a print-first culture in the USA Today newsroom.

That these things happened has been reported by the company in recent presentations to investors, in two stories by the Wrap’s Sharon Waxman and in a nice summary piece this week by David Cay Johnston at CJR.com.… Read more

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Monday, Mar. 03, 2014

Marc Andreessen (AP photo)

What Marc Andreessen got right and got wrong in his future of news manifesto

When the history of journalism’s turnaround is written some years hence, I think 2013 and 2014 will go down as years when Internet billionaires, the new Carnegies and Rockefellers, stepped into the fray in a big way — Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar (and let’s not forget more traditional rich guys John Henry and Warren Buffett).

Now comes Marc Andreessen, Netscape founder and venture capitalist, with a take on the future of the business that is wildly optimistic, dare we say, irrationally exuberant.

His essay last week on where news is headed, well summarized in a Wired piece and readable itself, projects exponential growth in market demand. Andreessen sees solid Internet businesses with strong financial backing coming into their own even as legacy platforms continue to falter.… Read more

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Monday, Feb. 24, 2014

newspaperreader_depositphotos

NAA: ‘Print only’ still more than half of newspaper audience even as digital grows

A new analysis of the most recent newspaper audience reports suggests a surprising split in reading habits. Digital audience continues to grow. Mobile audience is growing quickly. Mobile-only audience, though much smaller, has grown to 7 million.

Yet more than half of newspaper audience — 54 percent as measured by Scarborough research in 150 large markets — still read their local paper’s news report only in print.

There is an important qualifier to that finding. The 54 percent may consume a substantial amount of national news on various digital platforms, but even with the growth of print + digital access subscriptions, they do not visit their hometown paper’s website.

John Murray, the Newspaper Association of America’s vice president of audience development, generated a number of other headline findings in his analysis published on the NAA site (members-only) earlier this month:

  • Total daily circulation was up 3 percent year-to-year and Sunday circulation 1.6 percent among 541 daily papers reporting results to the Association of Audited Media (AAM) for the six-month periods ending Sept.
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Wednesday, Feb. 05, 2014

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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Friday, Jan. 17, 2014

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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Wednesday, Jan. 01, 2014

Finance and markets headline

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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Monday, Dec. 16, 2013

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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Monday, Dec. 02, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 8.55.29 PM

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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Friday, Nov. 08, 2013

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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Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

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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