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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Newspaper Printing: Don’t Believe All the Hype You Read

Numerous metropolitan newspapers have cut back from printing daily issues to printing three or more issues a week while shifting resources toward their digital operations. This is a fact, and it is the trend due to a year-over-year drop in print advertising and readership. The Times-Picayune published in New Orleans, Louisiana, exemplifies this.

However, this isn’t the whole story. Based on articles I’ve read and on my own experience, another trend is becoming evident: There is movement toward printing more newspaper titles covering smaller beats, with more targeted readership and shorter press runs.

A Closer View of the State of Newspaper Printing

I recently came across an online article in Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab by Ken Doctor, entitled “The Newsonomics of Near-Term Numerology.”

The article acknowledges the drop in print advertising (according to Borrell Associates), although the drop has been more gradual in recent years:

  • 18 percent decline in 2008
  • 28 percent decline in 2009
  • 8 percent decline in 2010
  • 9 percent decline in 2011

At the same time the Nieman Journalism Lab article notes that smaller newspapers are trending upward. These include daily papers and weekly papers with circulations of approximately 10,000 copies. According to Gordon Borrell, “There are a lot of 10,000-circulation dailies out there, and about 5x to 7x as many weeklies out there.”

The Nieman Journalism Lab article notes that weekly newspapers have been finding a steady stream of advertisers due to the sizable and stable readership. To augment revenue, some of these daily and weekly newspapers have broadened their services to include social media, SEO, website development, and other Internet-based offerings.

So it’s primarily the large metropolitan newspapers that are being hammered by the reduced advertising revenue and the readers’ migration to online news.

“The Newsonomics of Near-Term Numerology” posits that ad revenue may have flattened out for newspapers in the same way it flattened out for radio. Doctor notes that after the advent of television, radio ad revenue dropped precipitously in the 1950s but has “remained a consistent 7 percent share of advertising ever since.” Perhaps this will be the fate of newspapers.

It is interesting to see the stock share prices year over year for five major print news organizations that Doctor includes in his article:

  • Gannett: 64 percent increase in share value
  • New York Times Co.: 49 percent increase in share value
  • Lee: 107 percent increase in share value
  • McClatchy: 63 percent increase in share value
  • Scripps: 60 percent increase in share value

It is Doctor’s view that newspaper companies still left standing have learned to “manage decline and still show a modest profit.” And at the same time these organizations are growing their online digital operations and instituting paywalls to mitigate the effect of reduced advertising revenue.

A Confirming Source for Gannett’s Profits

In my reading this morning I came upon another article, specifically about Gannett’s rising profits (“Gannett Profits Rise for Third Quarter of 2012,” presented in the October 16 Huff Post media section).

Here are some facts about Gannett that piqued my interest:

  • The stock has appreciated about 26 percent in the past three months (according to Evercore analyst Doug Arthur).
  • Gannett has been reducing its reliance on print advertising as a source of funding and has been depending more on revenue from broadcast TV.
  • The latest company report reflects slowing revenue declines at Gannett newspapers.

And here are two related quotes:

“Even the pace of advertising declines at its newspapers has begun to slow. Advertising revenue fell 6.6 percent, compared with an 8 percent decline in the second quarter.”

“As a result of the digital pay model rolled out to 71 markets, circulation revenue rose 10 percent at its U.S. local newspapers.”

So the gist of the article is that:

  1. Gannett is solvent.
  2. It is diversifying its revenue-generating activities.
  3. Its stock is appreciating.
  4. And print advertising at Gannett is not dead.

An Anecdotal Report on Newspaper Printing from the Printing Industry Exchange

The owner of the Printing Industry Exchange also offered some interesting anecdotal information. He has seen increased online activity (live jobs entered into the Printing Industry Exchange hopper for newspaper printers that are members of PIE to bid on). However, these jobs have had shorter press runs.

My Own Anecdotal Evidence on the State of Newspaper Printing

I travel to Ocean City a lot, and I keep my eyes open specifically for broadsheet and tabloid newspapers in the towns along the way. Over the last few years, I have seen an increase in titles relating to Eastern Shore beach activities, real estate, conventions, and the arts. Most of these publications seem to peak during the heaviest beach months of the summer, but they still seem viable year-round.

Back here in the DC Metropolitan area, I have also seen a number of Hispanic publications in various areas I frequent.

My inference from the newspapers I see in my travels are that they are more focused on particular topics or targeted toward specific ethnic groups. They are often tabloid publications and small digests rather than broadsheet newspapers, and it seems that they have shorter press runs.

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