Are newspapers dying? Despite all the bad press, no. (I will explain later)
Could they restructure to become more viable long term and increase profits? Yes.
1. Restructure printing production schedules and issue newspapers for three days a week (let’s say Wednesday-Friday-Sunday).
2. Charge to access content online.
Yup. That simple. (and I will get back to those two)
Newspapers just aren’t as bad off as people want to make them out to be.
First. Most papers are pretty healthy. The problem is they are owned by corporations demanding 30% profit margins. If they don’t, it is often more profitable to divest what is typically some valuable real estate and shut paper down. Smaller papers with ownership content with comfortable but not exorbitant profits are doing just fine. Maybe newspapers need to reevaluate profit goals.
Second. The source of revenue. I believe it was just last year NY Times circulation revenue topped advertising revenue for the first time in a very very long time. Once again. That is ok. Just a different revenue model. It’s been done once before (like when newspapers first came into existence and the first 100+ years of their existence).
Third. High ad revenue is a relatively recent phenomenon. For rounding sake let’s say for the first 125 years or so circulation revenue drove the newspaper industry (don’t worry. I am not gonna get stuck on printed paper. Just going through successful models that would apply to digital news also. Uh. Paid circulation). There is no reason why today’s newspapers cannot go back to the original “circulation revenue” model and live with less ad revenue.
Fourth. Government support. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…what do I mean by that? Tax breaks on production expenses and a favorable mail rate. Both those things lower expenses pretty significantly and then the news reporting infrastructure can go back to focusing on generating responsible news.
Ok. Here we go. So why I believe it’s easy. Because newspapers actually control professional news output. Simplistically they own the network of news gathering and fact finding and responsible reporting.
Unfortunately the simple solution (those two little things I listed upfront) carries with it a lot of complex maneuvering and actions.
The first is simply a choice they need to do or don’t do. But it would be silly to not do it. They would minimize print production expenses, maximize circulation days, probably be flat with existing ad revenues (when it is all said and done) and maintain readership.
The second simple thing to do is a little trickier.