By Dawn McMullan
December 12, 2020
How news media companies manage the sliding scale economics of print newspapers and execute the emotional balancing act of reducing print days is the focus of a new report released today by the International News Media Association (INMA).
“The Economics and Emotion of Reducing Print Days” focuses largely on the U.S. news industry’s evolution from seven-day publishing to one- to three-day publishing – accelerated by advertising’s decline during the COVID-19 crisis.
Using case studies by Advance Local, Tampa Bay Times, Salt Lake Tribune, and Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), INMA explores how news organisations moved beyond intense skepticism about reducing print days to create viable digital models that require a consumer embrace of platform-agnostic subscriptions, e-replicas, iPads, print subscriber digital activations, and other print-digital bridges. Reducing print days also requires a robust digital strategy.
Among the case studies, INMA learned that the keys to making print day reductions work include:
- Mission: To be successful, this must be about more than saving money. This must be a transformational pivot toward digital subscriptions and revenue.
- Data: Predictive models can tell publishers what the “sweet spot” is where the number of days cut meets the best revenue model.
- Communication: Media company employees, readers, advertisers, and the community at large need time to adapt. Many communications in advance of the change will be needed. Publishers should even consider a gradual approach to implementation. The emotion of reducing print days is real and can be an unintended proxy — internal and external to the media company.
Shutting down print is not a casual decision as the platform is so intimately intertwined with journalism and the news brand. The INMA report looks at the math and the assumptions behind reducing print days.
Punctuated by expert commentary, the 51-page report suggests that U.S. print newspapers have evolved from primary carriers of news, features, and advertising to a sometimes secondary, necessary, and effective carrier of advertising where there is demand. Experts suggest this trajectory is happening internationally, yet more slowly than in the United States where the advertising pain points are more acute and reduced pagination and print days have become the norm.
“The Economics and Emotion of Reducing Print Days” is free for INMA members and may be purchased by non-members. Go to inma.org/reports to download or purchase.