Sur­vey o ers in­sight into news­pa­pers

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contributor - KEVIN SLIMP COLUM­NIST

In some parts of the world, peo­ple can tell spring is near by the longer days and signs of life. In my world, you can tell by the trips through air­ports and hours spent pre­par­ing and giv­ing speeches.

ere’s no doubt that it is con­ven­tion sea­son. e crowds have been large and en­thu­si­as­tic. In just a few weeks I’ve been from Nashville to Bloom­ing­ton, Minn., and Colum­bus, Ohio to Ed­mon­ton, Al­berta.

ere are more pub­lish­ers wait­ing to catch me af­ter key­notes lately. When the last work­shop is done, there are big­ger lines want­ing to talk. And what’s the ques­tion I get asked most of­ten? “How can I get my hands on the re­sults of your lat­est pub­lisher sur­vey?”

Your wait is up. Well, part of it is. You might re­mem­ber that I con­ducted a sur­vey of 614 pub­lish­ers through­out the U.S. and Canada back in Oc­to­ber. e re­sults were quite in­ter­est­ing. Mostly, though, they led to more ques­tions.

In late Jan­uary, I sent out Sur­vey II. So far, more than 300 news­pa­per ex­ec­u­tives have re­sponded to the sur­vey. Most are pub­lish­ers. e re­sults are fas­ci­nat­ing to a guy who loves num­bers.

In fu­ture col­umns, I’ll share some of my thoughts on the mean­ings of th­ese num­bers. For now, let’s take a look at some of the more in­ter­est­ing re­sults.

Re­spon­dents are from pa­pers of all sizes and types. ey pretty much t the in­dus­try pro le in North Amer­ica. Sev­eral pub­lish­ers of met­ros com­pleted the sur­vey, as did pub­lish­ers of mid and small dailies. e largest num­ber of re­spon­dents as you might guess was from weekly news­pa­pers. at makes sense, since the ma­jor­ity of news­pa­pers are weekly.

A paid news­pa­per is the pri­mary prod­uct of 80 per­cent of re­spon­dents, and 20 per­cent in­di­cated their pri­mary prod­ucts were free pa­pers. ese were bro­ken down into free news­pa­pers and shop­pers. About one-fourth of the free pa­pers classi ed them­selves as “shop­pers.”

In fu­ture col­umns, I plan to break the re­sults down in more de­tail, by size, type, etc. For this col­umn, I will stick with the over­all re­sults.

In gen­eral, news­pa­per-ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue seems to have dropped a lit­tle, but not much. Ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue has de­creased for 44 per­cent of re­spon­dents, with most of those in­di­cat­ing it has de­creased “a lit­tle, but not dras­ti­cally.”

Ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue has re­mained “rel­a­tively steady” for 26 per­cent of re­spon­dents over the past three years, while 30 per­cent re­port their ad rev­enue has in­creased.

Over the past year, how­ever, the num­ber of pub­lish­ers who say their ad rev­enue has de­creased is much closer to those who in­di­cate their rev­enue has in­creased. It’s al­most an even split be­tween de­creased, re­mained steady and in­creased.

Ac­cord­ing to 99 per­cent of re­spon­dents, print rev­enue is the key to pro tabil­ity, while 9 per­cent added that, while print is the great­est source of rev­enue, dig­i­tal sources make up a signi cant part of their rev­enue. 90 per­cent re­sponded that dig­i­tal rev­enue was “neg­li­gi­ble.”

It gets a lit­tle con­fus­ing in the next ques­tion. When asked to re­spond to the state­ment: “Over the next three years, my news­pa­per could sur­vive as well with­out a dig­i­tal (on­line) edi­tion,” 70 per­cent said that was a true state­ment. While, in the pre­vi­ous ques­tion, only 9 per­cent in­di­cated they get a signi cant share of their rev­enue from dig­i­tal, 30 per­cent an­swered they would lose “a lot of rev­enue,” if they didn’t have a dig­i­tal edi­tion. Con­fus­ing, but true. We’ll look into that in more de­tail in a later col­umn.

Pubs say print key to sur­vival

ere’s no doubt what the ma­jor source of rev­enue is at most news­pa­pers. With­out a print edi­tion, 99 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they didn’t be­lieve they could make it. For fur­ther em­pha­sis, 82 per­cent went so far as to an­swer, “ at’s crazy. We’d never make it with­out a print edi­tion.”

When asked where the most rev­enue is gen­er­ated on the dig­i­tal plat­form, 21 per­cent re­spon­dents an­swered “up-sell­ing print ads to our dig­i­tal side.” Rev­enue from ads sold on the dig­i­tal plat­form only has been the most ad­van­ta­geous for 14 per­cent of re­spon­dents, while an­other 11 per­cent an­swered, “Bundling print and dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tions.” Al­ter­nately, 29 per­cent in­di­cated that they have a dig­i­tal pres­ence, but do not gen­er­ate any rev­enue from it, and 14 per­cent an­swered that they do not have a dig­i­tal pres­ence.

We asked ques­tions re­lated to pro tabil­ity. Re­sponses from 90 per­cent of ex­ec­u­tives in­di­cated that their news­pa­pers are pro ta­ble and 55 per­cent added that they fore­see pro tabil­ity well into the fu­ture. Four per­cent re­ported record pro ts over the “past year or two.”

at gives you some in­di­ca­tion of the pulse of news­pa­per ex­ec­u­tives at the mo­ment. While I only dis­cussed roughly one fth of the sur­vey ques­tions in this brief trea­tise, I plan to share more in fu­ture col­umns.

How can in­for­ma­tion like this a ect your news­pa­per? While with a client in Vir­ginia last week, I was asked for thoughts con­cern­ing fu­ture changes be­ing dis­cussed at their pa­per. I asked if they would like to look over the re­sults of this sur­vey, which they did.

Af­ter­wards, the pub­lisher told me, “ at is so help­ful. I think we’ll hold o on some of the changes we were plan­ning.”

More in­for­ma­tion will come, but I’ve more than used my 800 words for this col­umn. Kevin Slimp is an in­dus­try trainer, con­sul­tant and speaker. He can be reached at kevin@kevinslimp. com.

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