By Steve Key
The sky is not falling.
HSPA’s good friend, publishing guru and speaker Kevin Slimp, recently emailed more than 50 publishers across the country. He asked them two simple questions:
Has your newspaper died yet?
What date are you targeting for its death?
Within 18 hours he got replies from 40 publishers, and the responses only serve to support my recent column that contended newspapers are not going to die because the information they collect and present to readers is too valuable.
“Every single publisher who mentioned finances indicated that their finances were strong this year,” Slimp wrote. “A few indicated record circulation and profits, and none foresee ceasing print anytime within the next 20 years or so.”
While the sample is not statistically large, I don’t believe the outcome would be different if he’d talked to 100 or 200 newspaper publishers.
Every Indiana publisher I’ve talked to this year has indicated that 2011 is better than 2010 when it comes to the bottom line.
Slimp plans to sponsor a larger survey in the next few months. He will use the results as part of his presentations at newspaper-related events next year.
Based on his simple survey, Slimp reports the following conclusions:
• Profits at large metros are down, but most are not losing money. Their circulation is down, but those newspapers are not planning to close.
“Sure a few have closed in two-paper cities, but let’s see how many close in 2011 and 2012,” Slimp said.
• At smaller papers (weeklies, small dailies and community newspapers), profits are up this year.
“Most seem to be having a very good year,” said Slimp, a favorite speaker at HSPA events. “They’re hiring again. Their page numbers are increasing. In some cases, circulation is back on the rise.”
The newspaper industry’s situation should only get better if the economy shakes off its current doldrums, but that doesn’t mean newspaper staffs should relax.
Advertising staffs must overcome clients’ current infatuation with social media.
We need to remind retailers that Hoosiers still turn to newspapers when they are ready to buy something – especially big-ticket items – to determine who is having a sale on the product they seek.
Newsroom staffs must continue to develop the best ways to deliver news – utilizing print, Web and mobile phone apps.
Keep in mind that experts say more than half of adults will have smartphones by next year.
If the newspaper industry does its homework, we’ll continue to give our communities the news they need to know and our advertisers the intelligent buyers they want.
Steve Key is executive director and general counsel for HSPA.