Word spreading on value of newspapers


By Kevin Slimp
Newspaper consultant

I’m in the midst of a multi-town training trip that recently found me in Cambridge, Minnesota.

Wade Weber and I have known each other since the first time he invited me to his newspaper in Mora, Minnesota, somewhere around seven or eight years ago. Since then, he’s had me back to visit one of his offices about every other year.

As we went around the room taking turns intro­ducing ourselves, I loved hearing, “I’m editor of the new paper!”

Who knew?

Wade has a brand new newspaper. I always wonder why people think there aren’t new papers being created. I run into them all over the place. Most recently:

• Six successful nondailies in Florida.

• Two in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.

• Wade’s new paper in Minnesota.

The headlines continue to be about huge corporations and others selling and buying papers. But don’t kid yourself.

The real story this year is the renewed vitality in the newspaper industry.

Surely you read the comments of Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of the world’s largest advertising group, as well as highest paid CEO in Europe, concerning newspaper advertising.

In April, he said that print media is more powerful than agencies believe and advised advertisers to spend more in print.

“Publishers need to ensure their offering is as quick and simple to buy as other solutions in the market,” said Sorrell. “In doing so, they will no doubt continue to prosecute the case not only for the value of their audience but the engagement and influence of their mastheads and digital properties with those audiences.”

I couldn’t have said it better. And I certainly wouldn’t have had the audience Sorrell has when it comes to ad executives.

It’s no surprise that Wade’s papers are popular with his advertising clients and readers.

His group has several titles, paid and free, each with its own local staff.

At the end of the day in Cambridge, Wade and I went back to his pressroom to look over some of the papers his group publishes each week.

The production quality was excellent. Good color. Great photos. Reds were red and blues were blue. Regular training over the years will lead to those types of results.

I didn’t know it before Wade told me, but newspaper design consultant Ed Hen­ninger had been to Cam­bridge to help with design just a couple of months earlier. I wasn’t surprised. The pages looked nearly perfect.

I saw a story about a daily newspaper for sale a couple of days ago. Almost as a side note, the story mentioned that the paper had a profit in the 20 to 25 percent range.

So why was it for sale? Apparently, that wasn’t enough for the giant corpor­ation that owns it. So, it’s for sale.

Another thing that I noticed while visiting Cam­bridge that has been a common thread in visits to newspapers this year is the enthusiasm among staffs. It’s almost like it’s fun to work at a newspaper again.

I’m glad. For three or four years, newspapers were starting to seem destined for doom. Someone, probably me, should do a study to find out how many new newspapers have been started in the past year. I’ll bet it’s a lot.

It pleases me to know that influential leaders like Martin Sorrell and Warren Buffett understand the value of newspapers. Frankly, though, I’m more pleased that people like Wade Weber, publisher in Minnesota, Victor Parkins in Tennessee, and Jerry Tidwell in Texas do too.

It’s the folks I’ve recently visited in places like Min­nesota, Texas, Tennessee and Florida that give me so much optimism about the future.

There’s a keynote I give now and then at conventions titled, “I wish you knew what I knew.”

Now, you know a little of it.

Kevin Slimp works as a newspaper industry trainer, speaker, writer and consultant.