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71. Saving Newspapers (2007)

71. Saving Newspapers (2007)

Up until now, the evidence we’ve seen would lead us to believe that advertising is simply not a sustainable model for newspapers. That might be true, but that hasn’t stopped people from talking about how newspapers might get it to work.

The following observations came from the 2007 Newspaper Association of America’s Mid-Year Media Review in New York. There, Scott Flanders, president of Freedom Communications (The Orange Country Register among others) and Gary Pruitt, chairman, president and CEO of McClatchy spoke about alternative ways to look at advertising,

Flanders: Video is what excites me the most. The advertising model isn’t user-friendly yet, it is more disruptive than newspaper advertising. [But] the future is going to be micro-hosted video sites, a lot will be user-generated content but increasingly our reporters have camcorders and are posting their own video. They’re all going to be video journalists in the future.

And Pruitt added,

Pruitt: We need to have the advertisers think in terms of total audience reach, not just circulation. Circulation is always going to be important because that’s what pre-print advertisers buy — they need to know that precise number. But we need to think in terms of audience and most of the [advertising] buys need to be in terms of audience. After all, that’s how people are buying [advertising spots on] radio or television. Therefore to be comparable, we need to move to that metric.

The idea here is that what is failing isn’t advertising placed against content but the traditional way of looking at advertising for print newspapers. They assert that if you change the way that advertisers think when making their buys, you can create a new, sustainable models where advertisers make placement against total audience reach (video, web, print) as opposed to simply placing against views.

Though, after watching this video and looking at stock prices (McClatchy has dropped from $37 in March of 2007 to $.440 in July of 2009) I have a sense that at the point these predictions were made the full scope of the problem was not clear. I wonder how different it would be this year.

The clip above is from 2007 with Gary Pruitt talking to his employees about McClatchy, the Knight Ridder purchase (which we’ll talk about soon) and their future. Watch until at least minute 7, trust me.

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