I’ve always loved newspapers, and it stems from childhood. My family always got the daily newspaper and we shared it among the five of us. We could count on my mom to completely trash it. She never put the sections back together, so we had to reconstruct it before we could properly read it. I promised myself that when I was on my own, I’d buy my own paper and be the first one to touch its crisp, pristine pages.
Like most newspaper devotees, there’s something ceremonious about this. I read the sections in a certain order, beginning with the sports page; when I’ve finished I feel better able to understand my place in the world.
Even as Trump harangues journalists, circulations are on the rise
Sadly, with the rise of digital, we’ve seen newspapers around the country steadily going out of business, and many think the industry is dead. Not so fast. Even as Donald Trump continues to harangue journalists and label excellent, iconic publications like the New York Times and Washington Post fake news, their circulations have risen. What’s happening may be a backlash to Trump, but thoughtful people still want to know what’s going on in the world, and they know they’re not going to comprehensive information from FOX.
Those newspapers that have survived are adapting and filling a need. They’re finding new ways to reach their audiences. Publishers are taking digital strategies and applying to them to their print operations.
1.Deepen the focus on local markets
Hearst Newspapers has acquired dozens of newspapers since 2016. A big part of their strategy is staying local, placing an emphasis on regional excellence. Hearst started as a family newspaper, and it has stayed true to these roots, even as the chain has grown to a huge, diverse media company extending to 150 countries, generating $10B in revenue.
2.Deepen the engagement
Combine the newspaper with a digital offering, creating free and premium websites. An example: San Francisco has sfgate.com and sfchronicle.com.
The SF Gate is fast and buzzy, run by a separate digital editorial team while the Chronicle is run by the core newsroom. By freeing up those sites to be more competitive editorially and more savvy on sharable content. The traffic has grown from 20 to a whopping 60% reach through this strategy.
3.Building market-specific products
Hearst has more than 4,000 employees across the country, publishing 22 dailies and 64 weeklies, but they’re committed to building products. Example: In San Antonio, Hearst started an effort called Spurs Nation. Neither a website nor magazine, it’s a whole platform, with a print product and a local Sunday TV show and digital video. The Spurs actually ended up working with Spurs Nation.
4. Leverage data to identify audience preferences
Hearst is investing big in data, because they want to know as much about their users as possible. Understanding their market means that they can continue to offer the right kind of content at the right times. Fundamental business intelligence is critical.
5. Speed to market with comprehensive news and information
You have to have something worth paying for. Breaking news might be one function; deeper analytical journalism another. There’s room for both. People are still reading. They’re curious and want to stay informed. There is still a need for information beyond the 140-character sound bite.
Hearst is on the move
Hearst is driving its own success through creative use of digital tools and social media, plenty of metrics and good old-fashioned reporting. We’ve come full circle. The delivery of news is really what newspapers are all about.
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