Saving Community Journalism

Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Saving Community Journalism
    Book Description:

    America's community newspapers have entered an age of disruption. Towns and cities continue to need the journalism and advertising so essential to nurturing local identity and connection among citizens. But as the business of newspaper publishing collides with the digital revolution, and as technology redefines consumer habits and the very notion of community, how can newspapers survive and thrive? InSaving Community Journalism, veteran media executive Penelope Muse Abernathy draws on cutting-edge research and analysis to reveal pathways to transformation and long-term profitability. Offering practical guidance for editors and publishers, Abernathy shows how newspapers can build community online and identify new opportunities to generate revenue.Examining experiences at a wide variety of community papers--from a 7,000-circulation weekly in West Virginia to a 50,000-circulation daily in California and a 150,000-circulation Spanish-language weekly in the heart of Chicago--Saving Community Journalismis designed to help journalists and media-industry managers create and implement new strategies that will allow them to prosper in the twenty-first century. Abernathy's findings will interest everyone with a stake in the health and survival of local media.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1544-8
    Subjects: Business, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    It has been a little less than two decades since the Internet revolution began, and yet the change to the news landscape—and the business model that supported it—has been seismic. In the 1930s, economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction” to describe how a new technology makes one industry obsolete while creating the opportunity for another to subsume or replace it—which is exactly what is occurring in the news business today. In purely economic terms, resources flow away from the aging industry (in this case, newspapers) to a vibrant successor or successors (search engines, social networks,...

  4. I. Creating a New Strategy

    • CHAPTER ONE Why It Is Critical That Newspapers Survive
      (pp. 11-32)

      The early 1950s were tense and dangerous times for the publisher and editor of theWhiteville News Reporter. Publisher Leslie Thompson, who had just secured a loan to buy out his long-standing business partner, watched as both circulation and advertising for the small twice-weekly newspaper in rural southeastern North Carolina spiraled downward in reaction to an editorial stance against the violence spawned by the Ku Klux Klan in nearby communities.

      But Thompson had more than his business to worry about. Both he and editor Willard Cole had received numerous threats—anonymous notes and pamphlets placed on their car windshields or...

    • CHAPTER TWO Why Newspapers Must Change
      (pp. 33-53)

      Looking out on the media landscape at the turn of the millennium, most publishers of community newspapers could be forgiven for dismissing the pundits and prognosticators who viewed them as technological “dinosaurs.” Despite rapid adoption of the Internet in the previous decade, the business model seemed to be holding strong. Newspaper advertising was at an all-time high, and profits were healthy. It was hard to imagine, much less believe, that the immediacy, interactivity, and interconnectedness of the Internet would wreak such havoc over the next decade on a 200-year-old industry.

      Indeed, the extent and pace of change in the media...

    • CHAPTER THREE How Newspapers Must Change
      (pp. 54-76)

      The three newspaper editors who gathered in the spring of 2009 in a conference room at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shared a number of concerns. Their Internet strategies had stalled, despite their efforts to embrace a digital future. All three were facing significant succession issues over the next several years as the owners neared retirement age. Would the paper stay “in the family”? Or might it be sold?

      Their most immediate concern, however, was the significant drop in advertising revenue and profit, which had occurred over the prior two years and threatened their ability to continue...

  5. II. Implementing a New Strategy

    • CHAPTER FOUR How to Lead Change
      (pp. 79-97)

      Community newspapers are currently facing a life-threatening shock to the ecosystem that supported them over the last century. In order to survive, they need to adapt—and quickly. But having realized the imperative to change, publishers and editors are often surprised at how difficult it is to enlist others at their newspaper to follow them as they head off into uncharted territory.

      Why is change so difficult? Thousands of books—written by CEOs, Ivy League professors, and business consultants—have pondered that question. “There’s a joke I tell on myself,” says Clark Gilbert, a former Harvard Business School professor who...

    • CHAPTER FIVE How to Shed Legacy Costs
      (pp. 98-118)

      When Catherine Nelson returned “home” in 2006 to central Vermont as general manager of the newspaper company where she had gotten her professional start, the region’s economy was already trending downward. So she immediately set about revamping the cost structure of the company’s two daily papers—the Pulitzer Prize–winningRutland Herald(circulation 12,000) and its sister paper in Barre, theTimes Argus(circulation 7,000).

      Nelson, who had more than two decades of experience with daily and weekly community newspapers published by the Harte-Hanks and Lee Enterprises groups, brought to the task a firm belief that “you do not want...

    • CHAPTER SIX How to Build Vibrant Community on Many Platforms
      (pp. 119-154)

      What do readers of community newspapers want? They say they want “local news.” But what exactly does that mean in a digital era? Is “local” a geographic definition? Or does it refer to a set of “special interests and affiliations” residents of a community share with each other?

      And how should newspapers respond? Should they go “hyperlocal” and provide information that readers can access on a microscopic level, such as a city block? Provide context and analysis to breaking news or policy issues that affect a region? Or focus on covering the special interests and passions of people in the...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN How to Pursue New Revenue Opportunities
      (pp. 155-194)

      For publishers seeking a strategy that will improve bottom-line prospects, the advice to “aggressively pursue new revenue” seems maddeningly simplistic and unfocused. The realization that no one seems to be coming up with the same solution only adds to the frustration. In the highly competitive media landscape that community newspapers now face, there is not just one way but many ways to pursue new revenue.

      Sallie See, editor of the weeklyHampshire Reviewin West Virginia, must “spread as wide a net as possible to get the advertising dollars we need to run the paper. We’d starve if I focused...

  6. III. The New World Order

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Far-Reaching Implications
      (pp. 197-214)

      Economists often use the imagery of a hurricane to describe the process of creative destruction. In a storm’s immediate aftermath, when we observe the altered shoreline, our attention is most often focused on the wreckage—not on the scattered seeds of renewal inconspicuously left behind as the waves receded.

      Two decades after the Internet made landfall, the newspaper industry is still adapting. But it is much easier to determine the broad strokes of what papers must do to survive in this new environment. Based on the experiences of other industries, we know thatallnewspapers—the community, metro, and national...

    • CHAPTER NINE Crafting a New Beginning for Newspapers
      (pp. 215-224)

      Our journeys are often punctuated by insights or “epiphanies” that prompt us to change course and explore a route not previously envisioned. Sometimes, the terrain becomes so difficult that we are forced to detour. Other times, we gradually realize that the path we set out on is not the one that will get us to the destination we’d hoped.

      All of the owners, publishers, and editors of community newspapers profiled in this book have experienced that insightful moment when they realized that the world as they knew it had changed irrevocably—and that they must set out on a different...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 225-228)
  8. How to Use the Complementary Instructional Website
    (pp. 229-230)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-238)
  10. Index
    (pp. 239-254)