The End Game For Newspapers Is Approaching

May 12, 2009

Newspapers and their publishers
are freighted with too much bad business judgment and lack of vision. We have
arrived at a turning point where either newspaper companies will crash and
die under their own poor business acumen, or owners and publishers will risk
every asset they have on untested business models with each new model
experiencing varying success. The innovators will be those who decide they have nothing to
lose and everything to gain.

For over one hundred
years when someone talked about “the news media”, they meant newspapers.
Television and radio (and for a short time newsreels) played a part, but
newspapers were the main game.

Those who operated newspapers in
this golden era knew their publications rested on two three-legged stools. On
the cost side it was printing, people and delivery. On the revenue side it was
display advertising, classifieds and subscriptions. Forward thinking publishers
tried to tinker with the three-legged stools, like advertising on the plastic
bags in which papers were delivered, or sharing printing presses and delivery
with other newspapers, but those were just changes in the margins.

This is worth repeating: The
three-legged stools of costs and revenues for newspapers lasted for over one
hundred years
. More than four generations
of newspaper publishers and editors learned these rules, came to believe them
and knew them to be true.

Meanwhile newspaper publishers racked up 25% average annual profit margins – for over one hundred years.