The nearly 100-year-old National Cost and Revenue Study for newspapers has been reimagined for the 21st Century: bound copies and PDFs are out; an interactive Web-based dashboard is in. Developers believe the improvements will be more useful to newspaper executives as they make timely financial choices about their holdings.

The study, which has been conducted by Inland Press Association since the 1920s, provides data gathered from newspapers annually. The data includes revenues (advertising, circulation) and expenditures (cost of paper, labor). Inland aggregates and segregates the information based on circulation and revenue classes.

matherThe annual study was more like “a historical document rather than a tool to make real-time decisions,” says Bob Terzotis, vice president of operations at Mather Economics, which overhauled the study with Inland and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. One of the biggest changes to the study: quarterly updates.

Newspaper leaders can see the changes and learn about new features during a free webinar at 10:30 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Register here.

RJI researchers worked with Inland and Mather Economics to evaluate the current study, update metrics and conduct focus groups throughout the U.S.

Using the new quarterly study, executives still can find answers to the age-old questions: Am I underpaying or overpaying my editor compared to other papers my size? How does my advertising revenue and the size of my sales force compare to other papers in similar markets? But, says Terzotis, today's publishers are more interested in metrics on digital advertising revenue than telephone and utility bills. Therefore, certain categories have been eliminated from the questionnaire that forms the basis for the study.

Another welcome change: publishers can complete the questionnaire online. The days — and weeks — of poring over paper forms are over.

The new study, with its customized data sets and easy-to-navigate interface, “looks like it’s on steroids,” he says.

The feedback from across the country was invaluable in shaping today's study, says Terzotis. But his firm won't wait 100 years to determine what financial information is most important to busy newspaper executives. “After a year, we’ll ask people again.”

To learn more about the project, click here

Revamped cost study will boost RJI research efforts

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute Research Director Esther Thorson believes the new National Cost and Revenue Study will strengthen ongoing RJI research that uses data from the study.

During the past six years, Thorson and her colleague, Murali Mantrala, the Sam M. Walton Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business, have used Inland Press Association data to develop quantitative models of how newspapers' investments in their news, circulation and advertising departments affect advertising revenues, both print and online, and circulation revenue.

“The accuracy of these models — both for individual newspapers over time or across multiple newspapers with data from one point in time — suggest that the Inland data will be even more important in the future,” she says.

RJI's Resource Allocator helps newspaper executives understand the true impact of spending cuts and spending investments before implementing them. To learn more about RJI Research Center's suite of services, including Resource Allocator, please click here.

Nate Brown  
Social Media Manager


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