February 11, 2013

Newspapers Turning Ideas into Dollars

Press Release

For more information, contact:

Mark Jurkowitz, Associate Director, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 202-419-3650
Amy Mitchell, Acting Director, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 202-419-3650

Amid Grim Economic Landscape for Newspapers, New Pew Research Study Identifies Four Revenue Success Stories

Feb. 11, 2013 – Amid America’s embattled newspaper industry, a new Pew Research Center report identifies and profiles four newspapers that are bucking the trend.

One paper, contrary to a downward industry trend, has enjoyed an increase in overall revenue in both 2011 and 2012. Another has seen digital revenues average nearly 50% annual growth since 2010. A third has developed a fast-growing revenue stream outside of the core business while the fourth has seen the growth of digital revenue largely offset print losses.

The report is the result of a yearlong effort to identify newspaper successes in the search for new business models. It analyzes four such dailies whose innovations-ranging from sales force restructuring, to rebranding the print product, to web consulting for local merchants-are generating significant new income. Each case study details the nature of the newspaper’s market, specific innovations and challenges, empirical evidence of success and the lessons learned. The report is based on internal data provided to the Pew Research Center and in-depth interviews with executives who explained the motivation and strategy behind their experiments.

“These four newspapers offer some hope and valuable lessons for a newspaper industry that has faced enormous economic and technological disruption,” said report author Mark Jurkowitz, Associate Director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “Our research shows that a few key traits underpin the success at these four newspapers: strong leadership, the ability to change the internal culture, and commitment to improving the editorial product – even with reduced resources.”

The four news organizations profiled here are:

  • The Naples (Fla.) Daily News (weekday circulation 44,876). After the publisher and his managerial team overhauled the composition of the sales force and its operating philosophy, the paper saw overall revenue growth in 2011 and 2012 – with print revenue a key part of the success story. The paper’s leadership calculates that the sales reorganization is responsible for about a 10% increase in ad revenue.
  • The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat (circulation 53,292). As part of a revamped business plan, the paper developed the Media Lab, a sophisticated digital agency that provides a full range of online marketing services to merchants. In its first year, the lab accounted for roughly 25% of the paper’s digital revenue and is expected to grow revenues by about 60% in 2013.
  • The (Salt Lake City) Deseret News (circulation 91,638). Former Harvard Business professor Clark Gilbert engineered a major reorganization of the Deseret Media properties, building a digital company, creating a new-and more narrowly focused-editorial identity for the newspaper and unveiling a weekly national print edition. Digital revenue has been growing at over 40% a year since 2010, while daily and Sunday circulation jumped about 33% and 90% respectively from September 2011 to September 2012.
  • The Columbia (Tenn.) Daily Herald (circulation 12,744). This small, but aggressive daily in an economically hard-hit Tennessee community rolled out more than a half dozen new revenue ideas in 2012 alone, some in print, but most in digital. The resulting growth in online revenues allowed the paper to keep overall annual revenue losses well below the national average-about 2% in 2012.

“There are positive takeaways here for the rest of the industry,” said Amy Mitchell, Acting Director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. “Still, these innovations are works in progress and these newspapers remain vulnerable to the economic disruption that faces the industry as a whole.”

The new report is a follow-up to “The Search for a New Business Model,” released by Pew Research Center in March 2012. Based on data provided by nearly 40 newspapers and interviews with executives at 13 newspaper companies, that study found that on average, 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-$16 in print ad revenue losses for every digital dollar gained.

Read the full report.

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Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan source of data and analysis, and takes no advocacy positions. Its Project for Excellence in Journalism tracks the transformation of journalism in a changing information landscape through its annual State of the News Media report and other special reports.