Newspapers Need to Change Metrics
For years, publishers have relied — often to their detriment — upon the metric of paid circulation. But circulation for the core product has been on a long, steady decline, causing some to suggest that print is on its way out.
The industry has touted the notion of readership — a metric that takes into account how many people read the paper whether they buy it or not — for years, but has often taken halfhearted steps toward giving it true legitimacy.
Then there’s the confounding, if promising, online angle. If you count Web traffic, newspapers are actually more popular than ever.
Jennifer Saba, associate editor, Editor and Publisher, Dispelling the Myth of Readership Decline
Surveys Say Move Online–Really?
I came across For Future Readers, Papers Should Look Online earlier this week. It was written by staff writer, Sara Kehaulani Goo, in the Washington Post. I read it and set it aside as not much, but it nagged at me. At first, I was puzzled. Why was the Washington Post writing about this? They were ahead of most at knowing where the readers are. This couldn’t be news to them or their readers. The piece itself didn’t offer much depth. It almost seemed to be filler.
The point of the article was that two surveys–one by the Newspaper Association of America and a second by marketing firm, Scarborough Research–point to the fact that 18-24 year-olds want news, but not newsprint. The point was supported by data and some compelling quotes. I’m guessing this one quote will be all over the Internet.
“People who are not necessarily engaged with the print product are increasingly using the newspaper Web site for news and information in their local market,” said Randy Bennett, senior vice president of audience and business development at the newspaper association. “Blogs, video and other multimedia content beyond what appears in the newspaper are all having an impact on usage of newspaper Web sites.”
Done But Not Over
This morning I decided to use the Washington Post article to inform an article I was writing on my personal business blog, Lizstrauss.com that came to be called WashingtonPost Now to Editor and Publisher Then. While I was doing further research, I found a more serious analysis of the newspaper readership issue written up last November by Jennifer Saba, associate editor of Editor and Publisher. Ms. Saba’s four page article not only cited and quoted the same sources, but laid out the challenges and the potential of what lies ahead for print newspapers. I finished my writing a short while ago, yet the Washington Post article was still in my head–puzzling me. I was done with what I had set out to do, but it seemed my job was not over yet.
The REAL Story
I went back to the Washingtonpost.com article one more time to figure out what it was that was bothering me. Then I found it. It was a quote. This quote I suspect everyone will overlook. It’s the only new information in the article. It says volumes about how the MSM looks at the Internet. This quote is the real story. How I wish Ms. Kehaulani Goo had started her article here.
“But if you continue to grow 30 percent or more a year, within five years, for example, online classified revenue will equal what you’ll get from your print model,” [John] Morton [newspaper analyst] said. “My concern is how newspaper managers treat this online profit. If they treat it as ‘found’ money and don’t use it to shore up the economic model of the declining newsprint model, it’s going to spell bad news for newsrooms.”
Do You Hear It?
Mr. Morton is worried that the newpaper managers won’t take the online readership and profits seriously. He understands that they need it to make the economics of a 21st-century newspaper work. Why wouldn’t managers see the way he does? Do they know something he doesn’t? Do they have their heads in the sand? Perhaps they are preparing to teach citizen readers too.
God bless the mainstream media! They are so generous.
And here I thought I was the nice one.
–ME “Liz” Strauss