Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review analyzed newspaper revenue sources and noted the incredible decline in ad revenues. You can read Ryan's analysis here. The drop in newspaper ad revenues by a billion dollars last year is nothing to sneeze at. The one area of growth was seen in subscriptions due to the market's growing acceptance of online subscriptions/paid content and paywalls.
Although ad revenue declines outweigh subscription increases, I think a significant point in the numbers is the fact that the most important revenue source is growing again. Subscriptions.
There are three principles to growing any successful business, well probabaly more than that, but three I will focus on here. A clear mission, goals to fulfill the mission, and then doing the most important things to fullfill the goals.
Every day here at Sabramedia we ask ourselves, "What is the most imporatant thing to work on today?", then we do it. Granted, it's not always easy to decide, but we try.
Newspaper executives need to re-ask themselves:
- What is our mission to our customers?
- What goals do we need to set to meet that mission?
- What is the most important thing we can work on to meet those goals?
If the answer is delivering the best ads, then the primary source of income should come from ads. But if the answer is quality reporting, writing, photography, and journalism, then focus on that and charge directly for your product, the revenue will follow. People gravitate to and pay for quality.
Ads are a great side business for newspapers online or off, but let's not get the cart before the horse here. The problem is many newspapers lose their focus on quality and their original mission in the pursuit of ad revenues.
Now is the perfect time to re-focus efforts on the core business. Do it now before your find yourself in newspaper graveyard.