Newspaper group CEO: We need to embrace all media including print

A longtime newspaper man who recently turned academic, Mr. David Boardman posted an essay sharing his personal lamentations about the state of the newspaper business and how the NAA chose to present its industry outlook at the 2014 World Newspaper Congress.

Mr. Boardman’s focus on print publications doesn’t adequately show the changes and growth that are taking place. The reality is that the newspaper business is comprised of multiple platforms, reaching many audiences.

Caroline Little, President and CEO, Newspaper Association of America

Caroline Little, President and CEO, Newspaper Association of America

No one denies this industry, like all media businesses, has gone through substantial changes in audience and revenue in the past 15 years due to the digital revolution. I have first-hand knowledge. Prior to joining the NAA, I spent the better part of my career in digital media, serving as publisher of washingtonpost.com for several years and then as CEO of the Guardian North America.

We are no different than our brethren in television and radio. But would someone expect Brian Williams to open the NBC Nightly News with a story about the program’s declining viewership since 2000? I doubt it.  Moreover, solely focusing on print revenue decline completely misses the profound and positive changes in our industry: delivering quality content to audiences how, when and where they want it.

As the association representing nearly 2,000 newspapers across the United States and Canada, it is our responsibility to champion the positives and celebrate the successes. These are the elements that will inform the newspaper business model of the future, and ensure that quality news and information is as available tomorrow as it is today.

The business leaders guiding these newspaper organizations don’t have the luxury of punditry. They know the importance and value of the printed product to both our readers and advertisers. And they still depend on the printed product to deliver the majority of their overall revenue.

It’s not an either or situation.  We need to embrace all newspaper media including the printed product. It’s this focus that in the end protects the journalism.

Our members are aggressively using technology to reach more people. Newspapers continue to launch new, innovative efforts nearly every day, which I pointed out with specific examples in my presentation at the World Newspaper Congress.

More than 137 million adults read the printed paper each week, according to Nielsen. And comScore tells us that our digital and mobile audience is exploding to more than 161 million unique visitors per month.

I disagree with many of Mr. Boardman’s points and his overall negative view on the industry. However, I do believe his observations on the need for continued creativity within the newspaper business are accurate. In order to survive and thrive, newspapers must maintain their focus on strategies that develop new revenue streams and take advantage of the latest technologies to reach consumers. I am proud to say our members are doing just that, and I addressed this specifically in my presentation.

Despite going through the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s, the newspaper media business is still a profitable one, with cash flows that continue to attract investors. How do I know that? I read newspaper media.

I encourage you to view my full presentation on the current and future state of the newspaper industry. I think you’ll share my enthusiasm.

Cheers with a glass half full,

Caroline Little

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  • Martin G. Reynolds

    Nothing like the dinosaur running toward the meteor yelling, “let’s go this ways guys, it’s warm!” Ridiculous. And, no mentioned of engagement or connecting with diverse communities.

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  • skyshoes

    The technology is there (but I haven’t given it to them yet) for the tactile set. Those that have to have a rattling paper in hand (think loo) need some love as well.

    With the cheapness of printing gear and recycling moving along at a rapid clip, those in need of some ink on their fingers could have, from forward thinking (18th century technology newspaper companies) kiosks that printed news on site. These WIFI connected printers could be in key locations around cities with recycle bins right next to them.

    Gone will be the massive printing machines and type setters but gone too are the buggy whip makers and corset shops…

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  • West Seattle Blog

    No, we do NOT need to embrace printed publications. The organizations, their work, yes, but not the paper version – which, among other things, uses resources we no longer can afford to waste on something that is looked at and tossed. Even if you use all-recycled paper, at some point it killed a tree (whose “replacement” will take years to grow). Whether you distribute it by carriers or mail or boxes or both, you’ve burned fuel in trucks (maybe even planes) to get it to people. Etc. Stop clinging to an outdated mode of distribution that no longer makes sense – get on with your future. Really, you’ll be saving money as well as resources. Things change. I started my news career as a 17-year-old writer and part-time typesetter. That last job just doesn’t exist any more. Technology moved on. And so it is with how we consume and produce news. – Tracy @ WSB

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  • Mike Henneke

    Wow. I will have what Caroline is having.