February 11, 2013

Newspapers Turning Ideas into Dollars

About the Report

About this Study

Several people at the Pew Research Center’s Project in Journalism worked on "Newspapers Turning Ideas into Dollars: Four Revenue Success Stories." Associate Director Mark Jurkowitz wrote the report and Acting Director Amy Mitchell edited it. Researcher Steve Adams assisted with demographic data on the markets involved. Dana Page handled communications for the project. Informational Graphics Designer Jessica Tennant and Graphics Director Michael Keegan created the visuals.

Methodology

This study is a follow-up to an earlier report, "The Search for a New Business Model", that was published in March 5, 2012. The findings of that report were based on proprietary revenue data provided by nearly 40 newspapers and follow-up interviews with executives at 13 newspaper companies. That study found that in general, the effort to replace losses in print ad revenue with new digital revenue was taking longer and proving more difficult than executives wanted. In the sample, for every $1 newspapers were gaining in digital ad revenue, they were losing $7 in print advertising. By the end of 2012, the numbers were considerably grimmer for the sector as a whole-$16 in print losses for every digital dollar gained.

That study did identify a half dozen outliers that either managed to offset print losses with digital gains or came very close to doing so. Pew Research then tracked those outliers and found, as a reminder of the fragility of the business, that in the course of several months, two had suffered significant revenue declines and three others were part of a company undergoing a major organizational restructuring that made it difficult to draw conclusions about their economic health. At that point, Pew Research sought to identify other papers that had valuable revenue success stories to tell.

One of the four papers included in this report, the Deseret News, had participated in the earlier survey and reported good results. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat had also provided data, but was not one of the successful outliers at that time. The other papers in this report were identified after multiple conversations with news executives and preliminary interviews with the publishers at each paper. (The Naples Daily News came to the attention of the Pew Research Center when the E.W. Scripps Company issued a release trumpeting its revenue increase of about 10% in the first quarter of 2012.)

To produce these reports, we visited each of the four newspapers-The Deseret News, the Naples Daily News, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the Columbia Daily Herald. We gathered data and conducted lengthy on-the-record interviews with executives at these papers as well as other observers and analysts. After the trips were concluded, there were several follow up interviews with the publishers at each paper.