Survey o ers insight into newspapers
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.