newspaper advertising

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As mobile ad revenue continues to soar, newspapers still struggle to catch the wave

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There was a double dose of good news in eMarketer’s mid-year ad forecast released today. Ad spending will grow more than 5 percent in 2014 for the first time in 10 years. And the mobile ad boom shows no sign of plateauing with 83 percent growth over 2013 expected.

Digital giants like Facebook and Google continue to dominate the category (together more than 50 percent), while newspapers and magazine struggle to offer competitive ad buys on their mobile products.

The Newspaper Association of America’s revenue report for 2013, released in April, found that mobile advertising had grown 77 percent for the year but still accounted for less than 1 percent of total revenue.  By contrast, as Facebook reported its first quarter earnings the same month, it said mobile had grown to 59 percent of its total ad revenue.

A newspaper publisher friend summarized the state of play in his industry this way — “2013 will be remembered as the year when mobile went from infinitesimal to insignificant.”

Doing better in 2014 remains a high priority for many newspapers, but more bumps in an already bumpy road are foreseeable.

The American Press Institute held a summit on mobile this spring and found that detailed personalized data is the key to sales.  That is a great strength of Google and Facebook as the digital giants continue to invest heavily to stay ahead of competitors

The creative side of effective mobile advertising is a work in progress for marketers.  The consensus seems to be that banners do not work well on smart phones and tablets and that video, GIFs and other entertainment along with location-specific messages are the better match to how customers use the devices.

The right sort of sponsored content/native advertising also fits with mobile, especially if it is the sort of thing users will share on social media.

In short, these are characteristics of the new generation of content sites like BuzzFeed (which does not take banners) but relatively unfamiliar to legacy operations which do.

Mobile news content is also in early stages of development except at the largest organizations like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe. They have put money into iterative improvement of apps that both display well on the smaller smartphone screen and are tailored to quick, on-the-move consumption.

My own hunch is that getting video right and getting stronger mobile ad performance will go hand in hand for news sites — challenging and frustratingly slow work but hardly impossible.

If the eMarketer forecast is correct, the imperative will only intensify. The research firm sees mobile advertising revenues passing the total ad revenues for newspapers this year and more than tripling them by 2018. Read more

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


Front page ads aren’t new at the Los Angeles Times

I hope the LA Times was well compensated for this,” Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton tweeted about the Los Angeles Times’ front page ad Wednesday.

Image courtesy the Newseum

The paper has “had a number of innovative campaigns on A1,” L.A. Times spokesperson Nancy Sullivan told Poynter in an email. Read more

Stack of newspapers

Student newspapers facing same pressures as pro publications

In an era of changing media models, student journalists aren’t just grappling with the basics of reporting, writing, editing and publishing — they’re struggling to survive.

The challenge is the same one faced by their professional counterparts: decreased advertising revenue coupled with increased printing costs. Like the pros, college media organizations have tried to adapt by simultaneously pursuing cost reductions and striking out into new businesses.

“I don’t know a student news outlet in the country that hasn’t been affected in some way,” Dan Reimold, a faculty adviser to The Minaret, the college newspaper for the University of Tampa, said by phone. Reimold writes about student newspapers on his blog College Media Matters.

Reimold said student newspapers caught in a financial vice have been forced to cut pay for their editors, reduce page size and slash print runs.

“It’s getting tougher to nail down new advertisers, it’s getting harder to maintain our most prominent advertisers and we’re having difficulties selling print as a vehicle to reach students,” he said.

Transforming business models

The Southwestern College Sun, of Chula Vista, Calif., used to publish 14 issues a year. The Sun’s student journalists are now holding fundraisers, concerts and banquets in hopes of making enough money to print five. The paper’s annual budget, once large enough to finance the $4,000-per-issue printing bill, has been slashed time and again, reduced to just $13,000.

“We’ve been beating the bushes, literally, with a big stick, trying to get more money,” Max Branscomb, the Sun’s faculty adviser, said by phone.

At the University of Oregon’s student newspaper, the Daily Emerald, editors, reporters, programmers and designers are generating revenue through startup projects such as, a service that connects University of Oregon students to apartment listing companies.

The Daily Emerald transformed its business model last year, re-imagining itself as Emerald Media Group and cutting its print frequency to twice-weekly, Ryan Frank, the Emerald’s publisher, said by phone. The students also shaved four inches off the top of the newspaper and focused on in-depth and contextual journalism by creating, among other efforts, a special teams project that produces one investigative story per year.

Frank said the Emerald made the changes not because of financial struggles, but because its new business model was more sustainable in the long run.

After cutting costs, some student newspapers have decided to go directly to their readers for help. At the University of California at Irvine, students passed Measure U, which created a quarterly 99-cent fee to pay for the cost of printing the New University paper.

The fee came after the student editors cut their 60-page newspaper down to 32 pages and then to 24, Jessica Pratt, editor-in-chief of New University, said by phone. The editors also cut their own stipends and slashed the number of color pages per issue.

“We were trying to make a bunch of internal cuts before we had to ask students to pay for anything,” Pratt said. “It was our last resort.”

A possible silver lining

It’s a bleak picture – but student papers are insulated from some of their professional counterparts’ challenges.

Logan Aimone, the executive director of Associated Collegiate Press, said by phone that legacy media companies were locked into costly union contracts when the recession hit, and had enormous print bills to finance — two expenses student newspapers didn’t have to worry about.

Aimone said he isn’t aware of any student newspapers that have been forced to close as a result of the recession, but added that a reduction in advertising has caused the newshole at many papers to shrink.

“If you add it up over the whole country it becomes a big problem,” he said.

Many student newspapers at larger schools such as Syracuse, the University of Minnesota and UC Berkeley reduced their print frequency to four days instead of the usual five, Aimone said.

But he noted that it’s unclear whether that change was driven exclusively by budget setbacks. Online publishing tools such as WordPress were widely adopted around the same time ad revenue began drying up, so it’s unclear which factor caused the migration to online, Aimone said. Likely, it was a combination of both.

“I think we’ll need a few more years in the rearview mirror before we can figure out what happened at the end of the first decade of the 21st century,” he said.

Aimone said Associated Collegiate Press, a professional development organization for student newspapers nationwide, kept a steady membership during the economic downturn. But a few years ago, when the recession hit the hardest, the organization saw fewer students visiting professional development conferences.

Contributing to their communities

At the Sun, Branscomb and his students have gone to the school’s new administration and asked for new funding, in addition to going around Chula Vista looking for donations. “We had to spend a lot of our time and energy this semester fundraising, which took away from journalism, which was very frustrating to me,” he said.

The Sun has received enough to make ends meet for the semester, but their production is decreasing, and they can’t subsist on donations forever.

As colleges throughout the country deal with the growing financial crisis, it’s important to realize the different roles played by student media, Reimold said. Yes, student newspapers are training grounds for the next generation of journalists. But particularly for rural campuses that aren’t served by professional media outlets, they’re also watchdogs for university affairs, making them vital contributors to the campus community.

“As much as we love a good Facebook memes page or a good college confession feed, it can’t take the place of student media,” Reimold said. Read more


GateHouse Media revenue drops alongside foreclosure rates

Boston Business Journal | WPRI

The drop in foreclosures nationwide in March should be good news for everyone, but the Boston business Journal’s Jon Chesto notes GateHouse Media Inc. is facing a 6 percent decline in revenue year over year because of a decrease in ad sales for foreclosure auctions.

The loss of all those foreclosure auction ads that GateHouse once counted on to get through the tough times is continuing to hurt the company’s classified ad pages. Lower foreclosure revenue in Massachusetts accounted for a full 40 percent of GateHouse’s classified ad revenue decline in the first quarter, the company said. But there’s good news, GateHouse investors: CEO Mike Reed said he expects this problem to subside by the end of the third quarter, and “possibly reverse.”

The Fairport, N.Y., company referred to the Massachusetts legislature in an SEC filing about first quarter results. Lawmakers there passed a law last year making loan modifications easier, implicitly leading to a further decrease in ad revenue.

Declines in classified ad sales have plagued newspapers since the advent of the Internet. Next door in Rhode Island, the Providence Journal’s owner A.H. Belo blamed the city’s real estate market for the slow sale of some of the company’s real estate. Read more


Google wins $1 million worth of USA Today ads in Print Advertising competition

The New York Times
Google Creative Lab won a print-advertising contest run by USA Today. Publisher Larry Kramer tells The New York Times “he could see how people may consider it ‘hysterical,’” Stuart Elliott writes.

First prize is $1 million worth of advertising in USA Today. “A million dollars is nothing to laugh at,” Google Creative Lab Chief Creative Officer Robert Wong told Elliott. The contest was spawned after a conversation between Kramer and USA Today media columnist Michael Wolff, Elliott reports. Wolff was one of the contest’s judges.

The winning ad shows the first paragraph of a newspaper story about the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Via deft copy-editing marks, the ad shows how visa problems preventing a meeting between the two could have been solved by using a Google Hangout. Still, there’s something pretty uncomfortable about the Google unit that created Google News winning this thing, right? After all, Google earned more than the entire newspaper industry in 2011. Read more


Washington Post third quarter newspaper losses exacerbated by Kaplan declines

The Washington Post Co.
The Washington Post Co. swung to a loss in the third-quarter as advertising revenue fell for the fourth consecutive period and its one-time cash cow, the Kaplan education unit, reported a steep drop in profits.

Newspaper publishing division revenue declined 9 percent in the quarter to $149.3 million, pushed by a 20 percent decline in print advertising revenue at the flagship Washington Post. The company said its declines were largely due to drops in classified, zoned and general advertising.

Digital dimes are not making up for the print loss in the newspaper division’s online unit, which include the Post Website and Slate. Newspaper online revenue dropped 14 percent in the quarter to $23.3 million. Display online ad revenue plunged 17 percent and online classified dipped 5 percent.

Overall, the Post Co. recorded a third-quarter loss of $6.2 million, or 82 cents a share. That contrasts with a third-quarter 2010 profit of $60.9 million or $6.48 a share.

Wall Street analysts had been expecting the Post Co. to report another profit this quarter, with the average estimate being a profit of $3.85 per share, according to Wall Street Cheat Sheet. Expect to see the stock (NYSE: WPO) fall on its opening Friday morning.

The Post Co. did exceed analysts expectations on company-wide revenue, which declined 13 percent to $1.03 billion. Wall Street’s expectation had been for a steeper decline of 16 percent to $1 billion.

The Washington Post Co.’s biggest problem these days isn’t the sluggish performance of newspaper advertising, an industry-wide problem – it’s the sudden change in fortunes at its Kaplan education unit. Read more


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