Mark Twain responded to reports of his death with “rumours of my death have been highly exaggerated.” The same could be said of newspapers. A year ago it was believed they were down for the count. Advertising revenues had crashed and it was widely believed that readers had already migrated to the internet when the recession hit. Now a year later, the perceived newspaper crisis in North America is not nearly as bad as many had thought. The Economist reported in June that most have returned to profitability.
To survive, newsrooms cut over 13,000 jobs changing the face of reporting for some time to come. Newspapers are slimmer and some, like the National Post which eliminated its Monday edition during the summer months, have survived by reducing services to customers. Many increased their reliance on service bureaus such as Dow Jones and Reuters. In the United States, as the auto industry tanked, car reviews disappeared. Ditto film critics and food and beverage writers whose spots have gone to general reporters. All of these things make it tougher to get attention for products and services. Newspapers have returned to delivering the news!
One sidebar of the recession is that the industry has become less dependent on advertising revenue, which may be a good thing. But to survive long term they are going to have to pick that revenue up from subscribers. To do that, they will need to create value for their customers. Whether consumers prop their newspapers in front of their morning coffee or download it to their iPad, newspapers have to deliver something that is compelling and distinctive.
The good news is that they have survived to fight another day!