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Sammy PapertIf you are not familiar with the 2012 Daily Newspaper Publisher Annual Index from the Insight and Survey Center at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), let me share what I thought were a few of the most interesting highlights.

By way of background, the goal of the telephone survey was to"examine the changes newsrooms are making to generate more revenue." Telephone interviews were scheduled and ultimately completed with 458 publishers, GM's, group CEOs and other C-level newspaper organizational leaders this past spring and summer.

The overall report is 70+ pages, so I'm truly only scratching the surface here. And, I'll leave any analysis or conclusion drawing for another time.  

  • At the most basic level, 66% of the Publishers were "optimistic" or "very optimistic" about the future of the newspaper industry. 
  • In line with that was the 62% who didn't ever see a future when they would not publish a printed edition. For those who envisioned such a possibility, the vast majority was thinking at least 10 years or further in to the future. 
  • Fully 40% of the publishers and executives surveyed expect print revenues to increase in the next year. That compares with 39% who anticipate such revenues to remain the same and 21% who expect declines.
  • Unsurprisingly, the percent who felt their digital revenues would increase in the next 12 months was 90%! 
  • When the timeline was extended to 3 years, there was less optimism with respect to print growth, but MORE regarding digital revenue increases. At the extreme, digital growth up 70%!
  • Since I've repeatedly touted the need for more growth and focus on niche business, I found it very interesting to note that such business accounted for 14% of their business today and was expected to be about the same in 3 years. 
  • With just about everyone assuming mobile platforms - both smart phone and tablet - will be more important tomorrow than today, what does it mean when the vast majority of digital revenue currently comes from website advertising and so little is coming from the BIG future via mobile?
  • Related, only 11% of publishers are charging for access to content via smart phones and the number only increases to 13% for tablets. 
  • Let's resist the all the fun of diving in to the topic of the value of web analytics regarding advertising sales and save that for another newsletter. However, it's interesting to note that the newspaper industry embraced page views and unique visitor counts and other traffic data as valid sales metrics supporting such endeavors, yet there remain 22% of advertising and marketing staffs who have not been trained to use web analytics! I suppose the good news is that 78% have. 
  • One common thread running through all the findings of this annual survey is the correlation between market size and circulation and so many of the issues addressed. Larger markets were more competitive than smaller; they had developed more digital solutions than their smaller market brethren; and, had seen more digital growth. However, it was the smaller, less competitive market that was more optimistic regarding the future and both print and digital revenues in the short and longer term.  

Kudos to the Reynolds Journalism Institute and its Insight and Survey Center for a job well done! By all means, let me know if you'd like to "see" more or reach out to Ken Fleming, assoicate director of research at RJI or Mike Jenner of the Missouri School of Journalism for the full report.

As we navigate to a more digital tomorrow, understanding such issues and trends should help guide us. Not just in highlighting the trends and perspectives of newspaper leadership, but perhaps even in pointing to NEW directions and opportunity gaps which need to be considered?!

There have been a few promising reports from a variety of quarters suggesting revenues have stabilized somewhat, and I genuinely hope that to be a trend in the making. Yet, it is equally true that tomorrow will be more digital than today and we not only leverage our existing analog and digital assets, but relentlessly conduct basic needs assessment and research and development to find new paths to OUR news and information consuming customers.

Have a great Fall and upcoming Holiday Season!

Sammy



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