Sunday, August 30, 2009

Should newspapers be publicly financed?

U.S. bill seeks to rescue faltering newspapers

Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:05pm EDT

By Thomas Ferraro, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

Because newspaper profits have been falling in recent years, "no substantial loss of federal revenue" was expected under the legislation, Cardin's office said in a statement.

Cardin's office said his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations. His bill would also let a non-profit buy newspapers owned by a conglomerate.

"We are losing our newspaper industry," Cardin said. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.

Newspaper subscriptions and advertising have shrunk dramatically in the past few years as Americans have turned more and more to the Internet or television for information.

In recent months, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News, the Baltimore Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle have ceased daily publication or announced that they may have to stop publishing.

In December the Tribune Company, which owns a number of newspapers including The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times filed for bankruptcy protection.

Two newspaper chains, Gannett Co Inc and Advance Publications, on Monday announced employee furloughs. It will be the second furlough this year at Gannett.

(Additional reporting by Chuck Abbott)

(Editing by David Storey)

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Newspaper Ads

Americans rely on newspaper advertising as essential shopping tool; When consumers read newspaper ads, they take action

From the Newspaper Association of Ameri

Arlington , Va. – Newspaper advertising remains the leading advertising medium cited by consumers in planning, shopping and making purchasing decisions, according to early data from a MORI Research survey of more than 3,000 adults. The findings, announced today by the Newspaper Association of America, provide conclusive evidence of the ongoing value newspaper ads deliver for marketers trying to reach consumers who are ready to shop and spend.

“Newspaper advertising remains the most powerful tool for advertisers who want to motivate consumers to take action,” said NAA President and CEO John Sturm. “While new technologies have their place in any total marketing program, initial findings from this important research demonstrate the enduring power of today’s newspaper ads. We’re looking forward to offering more comprehensive data on consumer motivation and the influence of newspaper advertising after a full analysis is completed in early fall.”

This study, part of a series entitled “American Consumer Insights,” examined the impact newspaper advertising has on consumer shopping and spending patterns. Early results indicate:

* Nearly six in 10 adults (59 percent) identify newspapers as the medium they use to help plan shopping or make purchase decisions
* 82 percent of those surveyed said they “took action” as a result of newspaper advertising, including:
o Clipping a coupon (61 percent)
o Buying something (50 percent)
o Visiting Web sites to learn more (33 percent)
o Trying something for the first time (27 percent)
* 73 percent of adults regularly or occasionally read newspaper inserts
* 82 percent have been spurred to action by a newspaper insert in the past month.

Preliminary data also reveals that other media trailed well behind newspapers as the primary medium for checking advertising. The closest competitor – the Internet – trailed newspapers by 20 percentage points (41 percent vs. 21 percent). Direct mail only mustered a 14 percent response in the survey, and television was cited by only eight percent of respondents. The numbers for other media trail off from that point (totals are displayed in the chart at the end of this release).

New NAA Ad Touts Newspapers’ Influence on Consumer Behavior

Putting its initial findings about the profound impact of newspaper advertising into practice, NAA separately released a new advertisement that describes engaged newspaper readers as “Action Figures.” The ads, produced by Allied Advertising, are available to NAA member newspapers and use early results of the research to highlight the ways newspaper advertising drives consumers to action.

“This ad stems from the fact that readers are not simply exposed to newspaper advertising – these ads resonate and consumers use them to take action,” said Randy Bennett, NAA’s senior vice president of business development. “There is a connection readers feel with newspaper advertising that no other medium can match.”

Primary Medium for Checking Advertising 2009
Newspapers 41%
Internet 21%
Ads received in the mail (Direct mail) 14%
Television 8%
Catalogs 6%
Magazines 3%
Radio 2%
None of these 5%

MORI Research conducted this phone and Internet survey of more than 3,000 adults for the Newspaper Association of America. MORI Research is a division of Frank N. Magid Associates, a leading research-based consulting firm serving an international clientele from offices in Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and Marion, IA. Engagements range from tactical and operational issues to strategic direction and are informed by the perspective gained from broad and deep experience over the past 50 years in all sectors of the media, communications and entertainment industries.

NAA is a nonprofit organization representing newspaper industry and more than 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. NAA members include daily newspapers, as well as non-dailies, other print publications and on-line products. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Va., the Association focuses on the major issues that affect today’s newspaper industry: public policy/legal matters, advertising revenue growth and audience development across the medium’s broad portfolio of products and digital platforms.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Changes at Scripps Howard

Scripps Howard was a company that bet on afternoon papers. Many were in Joint Operating Agreements, and some, like the Cincinnati Post and Evansville Press, have closed.

Here's an interesting article on reshuffling for better economics within the company.

E.W. Scripps reorganizes newspaper management in effort to boost local news, ad sales

On Tuesday August 25, 2009, 7:55 pm EDT
CINCINNATI (AP) -- E.W. Scripps Co. is reshuffling the management overseeing its 13 daily newspapers in an effort to produce more unique stories on each community and boost the company's slumping ad sales.

Like many other publishers, Cincinnati-based Scripps has struggled to keep up advertising sales as readers rapidly shift online and the recession hurts advertising both on and off the Web. In the first half of the year, ad sales at Scripps' newspapers dropped 29 percent to $165 million. The severe slump contributed to Scripps' decision to close the print edition of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver six months ago.

Scripps also owns 10 local TV stations, including nine affiliated with ABC or NBC, besides daily newspapers such as the News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., and the Ventura County Star in Southern California.

To streamline its newspaper management, Scripps said Tuesday that it has created an operating committee that includes two national posts to steer sales and content. There are also four other posts responsible for operations, finance, information technology and human resources.

Bruce Hartmann, the vice president and publisher of the News Sentinel, will become vice president of Scripps' print and interactive sales, starting Sept. 1. Rusty Coats, now the vice president of interactive operations for the company's newspaper unit, will become vice president of content and marketing on Sept. 1.

Frank Wolfe, Scripps' director of operations, will take on the role of vice president of operations for the newspaper unit. He will be responsible for production and circulation operations across the country.

Jim York, who is the head of information technology for the newspaper unit, will become vice president of IT.

Robin Davis, who is vice president of finance and administration, will remain in that post. Mary Minser, vice president of human resources for the newspaper unit, will retain her current role, as well.

Scripps also said Tuesday that it is sorting its newspapers into two categories.

The newspapers in Scripps' six biggest markets -- Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn.; Naples and Treasure Coast, Fla.; Ventura, Calif., and Corpus Christi, Texas -- will be treated as regional media organizations. The publishers of these papers will be on Scripps operating committee and report to senior vice president of newspapers Mark G. Contreras, while advertising and circulation sales directors will report to Hartmann.

Newspapers in Scripps' other markets, which include Evansville, Ind., and Redding, Calif., will be termed "mid-sized" media organizations. Their publishers will be in charge of local ad sales and report to Hartmann.

Shares of Scripps closed earlier up 34 cents, or 4.7 percent, at $7.63.