Survey Says…#2

Here are a few more results to share from my college peer survey:

Question – Change is inevitable these days – who is leading the change in your organization/paper?

  • Only two papers said students.
  • Almost half said professionals/staff.
  • 12 papers said some combination of students, staff, alums, university.

Question – What is your main concern with newsroom operations?

  • More than half chose – declining student commitment level/recruitment.
  • A third chose – quality of the product.
  • Accuracy and workflow issues were not universally worrisome.

What I’m Reading…

Ken Doctor:  The Newsonomics of 10 Ways We’ll Judge 2014

Ken Doctor is focusing on our commercial counterparts in his recent article, but most trends relate to college media as well. He calls 2013 “sobering” for the news industry, and though I don’t think we don’t have it quite that bad in our college word, I certainly think we can relate. Luckily, for most of us, it seems our dollars are local enough that we can at least hope they won’t dry up as dramatically as our commercial counterparts (double digits this year).

Here is Doctor’s most painful observation:  the print ad revenue decline is accelerating. Some analysts hoped the revived economy would slow the decline down and balance out the jump to digital (or social).

Consolidation is also ramping up in the commercial world. That makes sense in their world – could it make sense in ours? Schools would have to be in close proximity wouldn’t they? And could we ever conceive of content sharing? Since most of our labor is free (or close to free) and, of course, most of us include education in our mission, is it worth even discussing? The answer is yes, in my opinion. We can say we’re different all day long but we can’t ignore the lessons being offered by commercial media outlets.

Doctor goes on to ask what will the Bezos’ effect be in 2014 and beyond? Will he and his team create a new model to save the day? What potential talent are we missing in our own backyards – professors or graduate students with projects that could impact our industry? Start ups with new ideas that could jump start sales?

“News companies worldwide report around a third of their traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets.” It won’t take long for that to be 50% according to Doctor. So are we ready to capitalize on this? Deliver the news this way? Monetize it with one super small banner ad? {Google currently brings in 53% of the mobile ad dollars, Facebook is next}.

Panel Question #3 – Generational Differences

Do you think generational differences are a key reason for the changes in your campus newspaper’s presence and impact on campus (if you have noticed one)?
What is different about your workplace today?
What is different about the product(s) you produce for the current generation?

What I’m Reading…

Ken Doctor – Newsonomics

Ken Doctor’s 2010 book thoroughly covers twelve trends that are (and will be) shaping our news. I’ll highlight the most important ones to our college media world.

First, a few statistics to set the stage:

  • in 2009, Google’s profits of $1.4 billion compared to Gannet’s $58 million.
  • The last circulation increase in a major dailies was 1984; that’s a lifetime ago.
  • US teens spend 600% more time online than their parents.

Here’s the main sobering point for those of us who dared to hope that the news transformation was well along in the process; Doctor says we’re just at the end of the beginning and, when it’s over, print will be gone (4). He likens print media to the record album.

According to Doctor, local papers (the majority of papers in the US) have been hit the hardest by online competition, and then the recession (46). But their local focus is what will help them survive too – less competition for news and ad dollars (47).

Meanwhile, online news competitors are popping up in every city; some with big success.

This makes me wonder two things:

1. Should we re-craft our editorial vision (more boldly) for the local markets we cover?

2. Will competing student news groups pop up without the legacy costs and ties that we have?

It’s interesting to note that the Chronicle is following the trend/strategy started in 2009; Doctor calls this the “Hybrid Age of Newspapers” (48). Basically, with a reliance on print ad revenue, you accelerate the move to digital by cutting a day or days. The hope is that the other days are still attractive – new content or pricing can help. Of course, you can push folks to drop the print habit sooner rather than later.

Doctor calls on local papers to remap and reload (50). Remap is defining your market. In our case, I can hear the quick response – it’s defined. Maybe, maybe not. Should you focus less on community and more on students; more on sports and less on speakers? It’s worth considering if a change is needed.

And reload is the scary part; the next battle is coming (and we lost the first one). You reload by finding new ways to report and new ways to support it.

A few suggestions about where to focus come from Gannett (52-53):

  • Public Service
  • Data
  • Multimedia
  • Custom Sites (could be intramurals, or greek life, or study abroad)

Survey says….

I asked a group of 30+ newspapers to fill out a survey for me and I had 20 responses – thanks!

The winner of the caffeine or alcohol treat (chosen at random with the help of my son) is Pat Kuhnle from the Purdue Exponent. Congratulations!

I wanted to share a few highlights from my results:

Question:  Are your budgeting for a revenue increase in any category this year or forecasting for an increase in the next three years.

All but two papers said yes. Of those, most said online though a handful were optimistic about local and/or national rebounding slightly this year.

Question:  Are you considering cutting a day or days of print publication in the next one to three years?

50/50 – that’s good news. Half are not considering it. Of those who said yes, the majority are doing it not to save money (primarily) but due to a loss in readership.

Question:  What is your biggest threat/competitor for revenue? Is that the same competitor you had five years ago?

  • Many cite the university’s communication efforts – emails, athletics, promotions.
  • Self promotion – facebook, apps, social media, etc.

Question:  Do you think your readers are as loyal today as they were a year or two ago? A year from now?

  • 1/4 yes, 3/4 no
  • Adding new readers every year is the problem
  • Compared to 10 years ago, there is a decline
  • One paper noted that when surveying their readers they found that 70% think their newspaper is important but only 40% say they read it on a regular basis

What I’m Reading….

Philip Meyer‘s The Vanishing Newspaper:  Saving Journalism in the Information Age

Phillip Meyer is a journalism professor emeritus at UNC – Chapel Hill. He may be most commonly known for predicting the end of the print newspaper, though he will tell you his quote was taken out of context. I was concerned that his 2004 book would seem dated almost a decade after publication, but his analysis and suggestions still ring true.

Meyer wrote this book in his effort to save the industry; in this case, our big brother, commercial newspapers, were making disastrous errors we would have chance of replicating – selling out to investors. His insights obviously centered on some issues we would not encounter. That said, some hit really close to home.

Here are a few quotes and my thoughts. Please share yours by adding a comment.

“For a business that has been so successful for so many decades, new thinking is extremely difficult.” (218) This immediately brought to mind Collin’s book (see the September post). By definition, we employ the young and tech-savvy but we have found personally here at the Chronicle that they hold on just as tightly to tradition as some of the full time staff, alums and board do. It is not unusual to hear a reporter lament their online-only story will not make it into print (who will possibly read it there?), We all have to get on board to innovate – that can be accomplished with strategic planning or simply, brainstorming sessions.

“New technology usually gets its foothold by serving markets that have not been served before,” (221)  Good news and good news for us. Our newest students every year don’t have a print preference so we can potentially gain them right away if we offer what they want. Of course, the problem is how to monetize that interaction when all of our budgets rely so heavily on print advertising dollars.

Meyer weights in on the role of the press in democracy, ““The decay of newspaper journalism creates problems not just for the business but also for society.” (5) If we are no longer shining a light on the local stories (or doing so with decreasing frequency), there is literally no one paying attention. Of course personal rights and freedoms will be ignored for private gain. The real question is why don’t we care?  Meyer cautions. “Those of us who wish to preserve the social responsibility function of the press by improving its quality need to stop nagging long enough to start looking at the integrated product and not just the portion that is manufactured from paper and ink.” (221)

And Meyer concludes that.”People use the online product much differently than the print product; it’s a utility.” (221) People on our sites are looking for quick access to information. Ask some new students to take a quick look at your site and ask for honest feedback.

What I’m Reading….

Here are some quotes and statistics that the Chronicle used to make strategic planning decisions (our plan was adopted in June 2013).

Andrew Beaujon predicts that online advertising revenue will surpass print advertising revenue in 2012.  “Ad dollars follow eyeballs, “it just takes time.” “Much of the online revenue that is surpassing print now goes to those “pure play” enterprises, not news organizations.”  – i.e. Facebook 

 Pew Study:  Newspaper Digital Ad Revenue Not Making Up For Print Losses

“Newspapers need to prioritize digital advertising sales if they expect to thrive, according to a Pew Research Center study released Monday.” This Pew Study suggests newspapers need to alter the approach to advertising sale by hiring online only sales staff, selling everything with a digital component and drastically changing the commission structure on digital ads.  “… Rather than being determined entirely by sweeping trends, newspapers can be significantly affected by company culture and management – even at papers of quite different sizes.”  This trend suggests that regardless of size and economic setting newspapers are losing print ad dollars and gaining digital at a rate of seven to one. Some success has been seen in growing new digital revenue categories, especially targeted digital advertising.

“A new study of advertising in news by Pew finds that, currently, even the top news websites in the country have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online.”  Interesting – 38% of all ads are text link ads.

PEJ mentions EMarketer’s predictions for 2012:  video advertising will increase 43%

Regarding NAA advertising statistics for 2011.

  • Total advertising revenue down 7.3%
  • Print advertising down 9.2% year-to-year
  • Digital advertising revenue grew 6.8% for the year. 

 Newspapers earn $6.36 in print ad revenue for every $1 in digital ad revenue.

2011 newspaper ad revenues equaled 1954 real (inflation adjustment) dollar ad revenue      

First half of 2012 numbers reported by IAB + PWC:  Online ad revenue growth is down – achieved record high of $17 billion in the first half of 2012.  Mobile advertising rose by 95 percent + video advertising rose by 18 percent in 2011.  Search advertising spending is $8.1 billion while display advertising is $5.6 billion. 

Beaujon, Andrew. “Trends Show Online Ad Revenue Will Overtake Print This Year | Poynter.” Poynter., 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Mirkinson, Jack. “Pew Study: Newspaper Digital Ad Revenue Not Making Up For Print Losses.” The Huffington Post., 05 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Rosenstiel, Tom, Mark Jurkowitz, and Hong Ji. “The Search for a New Business Model.” Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). Pew Research Center, 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Matsa, Katerina Eva, Kenny Olmstead, Amy Mitchell, and Tom Rosenstiel. “Digital Advertising and News.” Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). Pew Research Center, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.


Panel Question #2: Education

Do you think campus media plays an integral or inconsequential role in a student’s education on your college campus? Or somewhere in between?
Can you quantify the impact on the average student (in your opinion)?

Interview with Mark Goodman

Most of us in the college newspaper world fondly remember Mark Goodman from his long tenure at the Student Press Law Center.

I wanted to revisit the movement in the 1980s – early 1990s of some college newspapers seeking independence from their universities, and Mark seemed like the perfect person to comment. His thoughts are below.

(Feel free to share your own story by commenting).

Mark Goodman, Professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, Center for Scholastic Journalism – Kent State University

What precipitated the independence trend among college media in the 1980s?
At most schools, I think the motivation was interference, if not outright censorship, by university officials.  In some cases, the push to independence came from the university itself so it would be under less pressure to intervene when the publication did something that faculty/students/alumni/legislators didn’t like.  I remember articles by Louis Ingelhart from the late 1980s that I think were published in College Media Review that described a bit of this history; they might be of use if you can find them.

What are the primary reasons papers and/or universities chose this route?
Despite the fact the the First Amendment was already a legal impediment to university interference, at least at public schools, I think that many administrators believed that as long as the publication was tied to the university through student activities or an academic unit, there would be the perception that they could and should control it. Independence through incorporation was seen as the best alternative. Some may also have perceived it as a way to protect the school from liability for lawsuits against the publication and similar financial obligations.

Do you have an opinion on whether independence impacts the future viability of college media? In other words, do independent papers have an advantage or disadvantage over their dependent counterparts?

Ten to fifteen years ago, I would have said independence was a wise option for a college media organization if they could support themselves through their advertising revenue. It could avoid some university red tape, give added independence (both through public perception and reality) and potentially provide a more real-world experience.

But even in those years, it was clear to me that independence wasn’t feasible for all. College newspapers in communities without a strong local advertising base just couldn’t make it work. For the big university newspaper in a traditional college town, it could be a great option. But for others that didn’t fit that mold, not so much.

And there were always potential disadvantages: an some schools, incorporation eventually resulted in no longer being a student newspaper (The Colorado Daily at U. of Colo., the Florida Flambeau at Florida State). At others, the separation from an academic unit hurt the university’s journalism program by elimination the place where students put what they were learning into practice. And some student media organizations just didn’t have strong enough leadership to manage all of the things that went along with independence: handing their own payroll, securing their own office space, hiring/managing a professional staff.

As you well know, the world has now forever changed for print media. Today, I think the number of college media organizations that can survive without any university funding/student activity fee support is smaller than ever. My guess is that until the business model for multi-media news organizations gets figured out, we’re not going to see many move to incorporate because they just can’t afford it.

Is there anything else about incorporation that you would like to address?

It’s not a cure-all. It’s a tool that can support independence. But a bad board of directors for your corporation can be just as bad, if not worse, than university administrators who at least you can raise the First Amendment against at a public school.

On a related topic…what, in your opinion, is the purpose and value of college media to a university campus?

It’s a community builder. Like a football team, it provides an opportunity for a shared experience. It’s also a source of information about issues affecting students, faculty and staff that just don’t get consistently covered in community media. And, of course, it’s a the best opportunity around for students to learn how to find and use their voice. A college without a student-run media outlet isn’t a true university in my mind.


Panel Question #1 – Democracy

I would like to ask my smaller panel of schools to answer the following question:

Do you think campus media serves the same role in government/civic life/democracy that it did a decade or more ago? 
What role do you think it currently plays or should play in democracy?
Any predictions for the future?