It is old news now that the newspaper industry has been facing some hard times recently. Whatever measuring metrics you use to assess the situation, it is the same conclusion. The general consensus is that newspapers are going the way of the Dodo. Whether it is by sales/circulation, number of active journalists, ad revenues, number of active newspapers and so on. Whatever it is, there seems to be a steady decline in the newspaper print business.
The new age of websites, social media, and other advertising mediums has ushered in new alternatives to newspapers. Print and online newspapers now have a lot of competition. They have to compete with alternative advertising and new ways of communicating.
Some important questions need to be answered though:
Is it really the Internet and social media that are causing the decline of print media? Are there some other factors? What exactly is engagement when it comes to newspapers? How does that correlate with circulation? Do these two metrics have anything to do with the clear decline of newspapers in the United States?
Circulation Vs Engagement
Newspapers are businesses, before anything else, and their goal is to make money. The main revenue source for any newspaper is advertising buys and subscriptions (circulation). So, the number of people that the newspaper reaches and the number of people that actually buy the paper is important. But in this new age, is good circulation enough to sell newspapers? Is there a need to engage readers even when they buy your newspaper?
Well, this is an important point that has been debated by industry experts for a long time. It has been found that engagement is one of the advantages digital media has over traditional media. It is part of what is making it expand and advance at breakneck speed. It is much easier for readers on social media or websites to engage with what they read. This has a lot to do with the array of formats available online for engaging content.
Now, this does not mean that newspapers cannot be engaging. There are a few things that they can leverage to bring up their engagement levels. But, most times circulation alone isn’t enough to make a newspaper truly competitive in this new media world. Great! Next is an in-depth look at how newspapers can improve on these two factors: Circulation and Engagement. This will ensure that it remains relevant for a long time.
How Newspapers Can Increase Circulation And Revenue
Newspapers have access to quite a bit of reader information. But a lot of newspapers do not make use of this information. It is information that could be useful in classifying their readership. It could also make it easier to target content and ads. This will also help circulation and increase revenue. Here are some things that newspapers can do to improve their all-important circulation:
– They Should Make The Shift
One important fact is applicable here; everything is going digital. Any newspaper that wants to keep thriving has to pivot and move with the times. Newspapers have to include some digital elements to their news delivery. One option is a digital-only model. Another is a print-first and mobile second model. Either way, content delivery is necessary.
Lots of papers have even cut down their print publication to 3 times a week. Some have done away with printing papers completely and have gone fully digital. Of course, there is still a pretty large number of the population that likes to read their news on paper. It is safe to say that part of the population will always exist. But digital offers content variety. Diversifying to include it is what will make any newspaper stand out. This will also increase the circulation and reach of such newspaper.
It is even possible to use new technology to reach out to your newspaper reading audience. Some newspapers use Facebook live chat with their readers. They give readers hot, off-the-press news and promotions. Some newspapers also use Twitter to spread breaking news and to publicize community functions.
– They Should Offer News Membership
This is also an effect of digital media. Nowadays, many platforms have shown the effectiveness of subscription models. Spotify will give you all the music you want for a small subscription fee. The same applies to Netflix. They deliver TV shows, movies and documentaries at a relatively low cost. These subscription models can be beneficial to newspapers. They only have to tie it to a value.
People want their news fast and short. The world is fast-paced. Nobody wants to wait for loading pages of news or waiting for their newspaper delivery. Especially when they can get it on a social media app in seconds. So having a digital version of the news that loads fast and isn’t too cumbersome to read is important. It is also a good idea to track reader behavior so the information can inform later articles.
As important as it is to make sure the right content is getting to the readers in the right medium. It is also important to price it right. A good way to hit the pricing sweet spot is to organize a poll. Ask your readers how much they would pay for a monthly subscription. Another way to go is to charge for news per season. Say, for instance, it is football season. You could have a real-time football reporting subscription for sports lovers.
– They Should Reward Readers With Exciting Groupons
The ability to buy so many things online has created a healthy respect in consumers for finding the right shops and websites. This is why recommendations are a key factor. They influence the online buying behaviors of most people. This buying trend and the need for trust have given rise to a community of trusted brands and e-commerce sites online. On these platforms, buyers and sellers are confident in what they are selling and buying.
Platforms like Groupon and Amazon are great examples of companies offering value in this space. They offer both local and international deals that are valid for a specific period of time. These time-limited offers add some exciting urgency to the shopping process. It can even dictate buying behaviors during holidays. This includes Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and so on.
The same concept can work for a newspaper outfit. Newspapers are usually already trusted brands in their communities. This is a great opportunity for the newspaper to leverage that. They can then get their readers excited about reading their newspapers. There could be deals that offer a candlelit dinner for two at a fancy local restaurant for Valentine’s. It could also offer a fun day at the local amusement park for a family of five on Children’s Day.
These deal codes could be printed in newspapers. So readers would have to buy the paper to get access to the codes. The newspaper could even use social media to publicize the promo.
These are interesting ways for any newspaper business to increase circulation and revenue. Many of these tips include the use of the internet in some form or the other. This is because that is what the future is. Any newspaper that wants to stay relevant needs to add some digital elements to their operations. This can be done without losing the core value that they offer, printed news.
It is good to increase circulation, but circulation does not equal engagement. Engagement is what will keep your readers coming back for more. So, how do you improve engagement for your newspaper?
How Newspapers Can Boost Engagement
According to data from journalism.org, the total circulation of daily newspapers in the US has steadily declined. It has gone from 63 million in the 1980s to about 31 million now. The revenue from advertising in newspapers has also taken a nosedive. From $49 billion in 2005 to a much lower $17 billion in 2017.
But it can be argued that there are quite a few factors responsible for this decline. It may not only be because of the proliferation of the internet and other digital media. There is also the issue of engagement viz a viz circulation. Circulation is good, your newspaper is making the rounds, it is getting to people. But the more important metric is, are people engaged when they read your newspaper? That right there is one of the issues facing print news media.
It is very easy for other platforms where people get their news to engage the reader. These platforms include social media or the internet. They have several ways to do this through interactive visuals, videos and so on. A newspaper has to try harder to meet this same level of engagement. There are some interesting ways for newspapers to do this.
Here are some of the things that newspapers should work on if they want to keep their reader engagement up in this new market:
– They Should Know Their Audiences
Newspaper circulation used to depend on the family unit and the set pattern of domestic life. The father who went to work and came back home at the same time every day. The kids who come back from school and played or watching television for the rest of the afternoon. The mother who prepared dinner at about the same time. These series of events gave the perfect opportunity for men to sit down after work to read the daily newspaper. This pattern becomes even more pronounced during the weekend. No school, no work, everyone in the family is in a relaxed state. It is the perfect time to pick up a newspaper and read.
This family dynamic has changed over the years, though. Most families don’t have stay-at-home mothers. Nor do they have fathers that come home early and at a specific time. Readers are now on the go most of the time and they have more things to keep them busy. For any newspaper to meet any level of success nowadays, they have to know the habits of their readers. Their technology preferences, interests, demographic characteristics and so on. It has become crucial for newspapers to know their audience and be able to deliver tailored content to them. Wherever they want it and using whatever medium they prefer.
– They Should Have A Specific Focus
The major attraction local newspapers have for many is that they can get local news and coupons from them. They can read about the new bakery opening up on the next corner. They can also read about the newly passed law that will affect how they drive down the street. They could take a moment to scan international news. But their main interest is what is happening around them.
This is an advantage that local newspapers have over regional or digital newspapers. They have their feet on the ground and can provide targeted information. This is like what people can get from the Internet. Brands and news outfits usually use the Internet to serve well-targeted ads and information to their readers. This is something that newspapers who want to keep their readers engaged should look into, and not only local newspapers.
– They Should Dig Deep
There is something to be said for a newspaper that digs deep for every story it publishes. This instance is one where big newspaper chains can learn from smaller ones. Larger newspapers usually don’t have the resources to go into the details of every story they publish. But this is where smaller newspapers have the advantage. They can afford to go in-depth into stories that their readers are interested in.
For instance, if a local prominent industrialist dies. Regional newspapers might just publish a basic obituary. Community newspapers can go into detail, giving a more personal obituary. This is something that will resonate with the readers who knew the person.
– They Should Find New Revenue Streams Having Their Audience In Mind
The way advertising works in the digital space is very different from how it works in traditional media. The sad fact is that advertisers do not necessarily need to advertise in traditional media like they used to. The digital age took everyone by storm, especially the print media industry. It is now easy to advertise on Facebook or Google and be able to reach millions within a few hours or days.
This new trend has made it essential for newspapers to evolve. The need to engage readers and diversify revenue streams has become critical. Newspapers can start developing sponsored products or hosting events. Another way is to develop attractive online subscription and engaging content strategies. Most of the traditional print newspapers that are thriving today have an online element to their business model.
It has been a rough few decades for the newspaper industry, but there are some outfits that are still doing well. A lot of these are community newspapers, and there is a lot that bigger newspapers can learn from how they run. A large percentage of their success is due to the ability of these small newspapers to put out hyper-targeted content for their readers.
Community newspapers seem to be the bright spots in an otherwise dreary landscape for newspapers. This is largely due to their ability to be spry and innovate, moving along with the times. These little newspapers have proven that the following are necessary to succeed in this new digital world:
- A solid revenue improvement plan
- Focus and depth
- Audience engagement
Digital media has been on the rise in the past few decades, mostly at the detriment of traditional media. The state of things is not likely to change soon. But, there are some things that newspaper outfits can do to stay relevant. Improving their circulation and engagement is going to keep them in front. This can happen through the incorporation of some digital elements into their operations. They should consider going digital. Create content and advertising that is targeted and speaks to your audience.
Table of Contents
With Scrollable Navigation
Chapter 2 – Circulation Vs Engagement
Chapter 4 – How Newspapers Can Boost Engagement
Chapter 5 – Conclusion