Newspapers: New Models and Advertising
If you work in advertising, you are familiar with the newspaper industry and its changing nature.
While newspapers continue to reach millions of people every day (over 25 million in the US on weekdays and over 30 million on Sundays1), their economic model is going through a change that will impact the advertising industry. Media buyers who are looking to tap into the highly local audience provided by newspapers, both in print and online, need to be aware of these changes. In this article, we will discuss four changes impacting the news media industry and how they can impact local media advertising.
A rising trend for major metro newspapers in the past five years is being purchased by a billionaire. These wealthy individuals, either an inheritor of old money or a tech entrepreneur, are purchasing or creating new newspapers across the United States. In the past decade, several major market publications have joined The Billionaire Local Newspaper Club2.
- The Boston Globe
- Hoy Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Times
- The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
- The San Diego Union-Tribune
- The Time-Picayune (New Orleans)
- The Washington Post
- The Worchester Telegram & Gazette
These publications have seen a revitalization in both their economic standing and their technological base, emerging as leaders in the field of journalism and the delivery of local news.
Pros: Look for new and innovative products from these publications. With their new ownership, they are trying new tactics, breaking down old traditions and coming into their own.
Cons: With these changes, we generally see many old faces disappear. Be prepared to find a new sales representative.
Since early in the 2000’s, we have seen advertising spend continue to fragment. As the total advertising dollar volume is divided up between more and more outlets, newspapers and other news media companies have sought new sources of funding. Those funding sources range from grants that support individual story initiatives or an entire company, to membership-driven models akin to PBS or NPR. Two great examples of these models can be found on either side of the country.
The Texas Tribune
“The only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs and engages Texans about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.”
“PublicSource is the only nonprofit digital-first news organization that lives up to its mission of delivering public-service reporting and analysis in the Pittsburgh region. We are local. We believe in journalism as a public service. We tell stories for a better Pittsburgh.”
These publications showcase the ways non-profit models can work. In the case of The Texas Tribune, their income comes from a mix of donations, membership, display advertising, email sponsorship, events, and sponsored content. PublicSource, however, relies on grants, donations, membership, and limited corporate sponsorship of events to fund their journalism efforts.
Pros: New publications, with a wide coverage of locations and topics, are emerging and presenting advertisers with a valuable audience.
Cons: Depending on their funding model, some of these publications may not accept display advertising.
The for-profit model is nothing new in the news media industry. For decades, it was the ultimate option and only in the last few years has the discussion of alternatives been taken seriously. The majority of newspapers across the United States still utilize the for-profit model, but not without changes.
The first change started with the disruption of the delivery of news. As more reader eyeballs shifted to digital screens, so did ad dollars and the attention of newspaper publishers. Now, many newspapers have added a plethora of digital options to their catalog and can serve advertisers in a multitude of ways.
- Digital display advertising both on their site and across their custom networks
- Sponsored and native content running on their trusted local platforms
- Email in the form of local newsletters and third-party lists
- Video advertising surrounded by locally created content
Along with these tools, news media companies are offering full-service digital agencies, event creation/sponsorship and, of course, the reliable power of print advertising.
Outside of advertising tools, for-profit models are also placing a larger emphasis on circulation revenue. In 2019, the Minneapolis Star Tribune is a perfect example of this shifting focus, with 50% of their revenue generated through circulation efforts.
Pros: Advertisers now have more options than ever before to reach local and regional audiences across the United States.
Cons: With the expansion of advertising programs, advertisers can feel like they are being pushed in a thousand different directions.
Brought about by the same forces that created a drive to the non-profit model, many organizations are creating new tools and resources for journalists. These tools often arrive with little to no cost and enable newspapers to expand their coverage into new topics or new locations. Below are a few examples of these new tools.
ProPublica’s mission is “to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.” To help them accomplish this goal, they have tapped into the power of the local news media industry in a multitude of ways, but germane to this topic is their release of stories under a Creative Commons License (https://www.propublica.org/steal-our-stories/). By doing so, they have greatly expanded their reach, while also enabling news media companies from across the country to expand their content set.
Lenfest Institute for Journalism
Creating a center of journalism activity in Philadelphia, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is “the first-of-its-kind non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism.” They have grown their initial $20 million seed and are providing the news media industry with new technology, new membership methodology, ongoing industry reporting and many other programs (https://www.lenfestinstitute.org/programs/).
Google News Initiative
Through the Google News Initiative, one of the largest technology companies in the world is taking an active hand in the promotion and development of journalism. By combining grants, product development, and in-field partnerships, Google is providing resources to newspapers to develop even more content that is built with the latest tools.
Facebook Journalism Project
Facebook realized that their users want content about where they live and work. To help deliver that content, they built their Journalism Project to work with the news media industry by training over 13,000 journalists directly, providing online training tools and expanding the quality of newsroom projects through partnership.
As these and other tools come online, newsrooms are finding new and more powerful ways to tell stories and attract readers, creating a fertile location for advertisers’ messages.
Pros: Newspapers are able to reach more people and to cover more topics, providing a way for advertisers to tap into massive audiences.
Cons: These expanded tools provide no con to advertisers.
As the news media industry continues to evolve, it can be hard to keep pace. If you need help, rely on the newspaper experts at MANSI Media. Our team can place your local newspaper buy, in print or online, anywhere in the United States, from the smallest niche publication to the largest national newspaper. Get the help you need for your next advertising plan by emailing Help@MANSIMedia.com or calling 717-703-3043.
Interested in learning more? Read the complete study, Landscape Study of Local News Model, from the Shorenstein Center here.