That hammering sound you hear is another nail being driven into the coffin of the daily newspaper, and they don’t seem to be scratching very hard to get out.
In this slow economy, there are really only so many advertising dollars to go around, and more and more those dollars are going somewhere besides the newspaper — either in print or on their websites. A recent Reuters story revealed that in the first quarter of this year online ad revenue rose only 1 percent from a year ago, according to the Newspaper Association of America. This was the fifth consecutive quarter in which growth had declined. The New York Times digital revenue actually fell 2.3 percent, while the Washington Post Co. online decline was 7 percent.
The news content may be what newspapers are known for but it is the ads that pay the salaries of reporters. With fewer ads there are fewer reporters and editors and less reason to pick up a newspaper or visit its website, making the value to advertisers that much less, leading to a vicious death spiral, unless someone can find a viable business model.
And the competition isn’t just online. A recent Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial bemoaned the fact that the U.S. Postal Service recently cut a deal with a direct-mail marketing firm that allows it to undercut the rate for national retail preprint ads — those colorful inserts in the Sunday paper that many newspapers also mail to non-subscribers to saturate the market — to 42 percent less than newspapers are required to pay for the same delivery.
The NAA said the deal could cost newspapers $1 billion.
This week Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur blog declared that newspapers are being outsmarted in the bid for mobile advertising. He noted Apple and Google have increased their efforts to grab a bigger share of the local advertising market via smart phones. He said ads on handheld devices are expected to increase 4.5 times this year and reach $7.7 billion by the end of 2016.
“Their efforts are a major threat to newspapers hoping to capitalize on the enviable power of their local franchises to become significant players in the vigorously growing mobile space,” Mutter writes. “Unfortunately, newspapers are woefully behind.”
He noted that mobile devices are being made more intuitive to the wants and location of the user, able to direct the owner to the nearest coffee shop or retail store, based on the user’s past preferences.
“Meantime, the mobile app at the typical newspaper is as static, unintuitive and non-transactional as a brick,” Mutter declares.
In addition, the newspaper’s raison d’etre, the news, is being spidered and copied, repurposed and regurgitated by thousands of aggregators and bloggers, Tweeters, Googlers and Yahooers and the like, until the original source is irrelevant — as a brand and as a financially going concern.
The Reuters report quoted a Moody’s analyst as saying, “At this point, there is no evidence digital strategies are returning most daily newspapers to positive growth. It is merely a way to moderate revenue declines.”
Or as football announcer Don Meredith would say: