The newspaper industry is “walking on a tightrope” as it desperately seeks new ways to make money amid the collapse of print advertising. That was the not-so-reassuring message from Ken Doctor, news analyst and blogger at Nieman Journalism lab, during the opening address at the World Publishing Expo in Berlin on Monday.
“This is the toughest news the industry around the world is dealing with”, says Doctor. Some stats:
— Global print advertising has fallen 39 percent, equivalent to $51 billion, between 2007 and 2013.
— There’s little sign of that trend slowing, with annual declines continuing at between seven and 12 percent in 2013.
— There is a $99 billion online advertising opportunity, but two-thirds of that money goes to Google, Facebook, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo.
The collapse of print ad revenues was the most worrying part of Doctor’s 10-point presentation on the challenges facing the news business in 2014, but he also highlighted publishers were adapting to the threat.
— Integrated marketing: Publishers are adopting new forms of advertising and offering more comprehensive marketing services that go beyond selling media.
— Paywalls 2.0: Not one to buy into the ‘paywalls will save the newspaper industry’ myth, Doctor quoted New York Times’ CEO Mark Thomson on how charging models have to develop. It’s not just about restricting content to paying customers, it’s “working the engagement curve”.
— “Selling more stuff”: Doctor says newspapers are trying to replace those lost print revenues with a smorgasboard of different revenue streams – selling digital products and services that go far beyond their traditional expertise.
Doctor also asked the question, “who is going to come up with a Netflix for news?” We already have Oyster, which offers an all-access model for books. Can someone like Flipboard make something similar work for newspapers?
Those developments are all encouraging, but Doctor’s signoff, underlined the wider damage caused by the industry’s malaise:
Newsroom layoffs continue. All these many business decision we make form the core of what our communities know. In 2013 we don’t know what we don’t know. There are so many fewer stories been told because there are so many fewer journalists.