When quarterly circulation figures next ping the email boxes of newspaper publishers, it is likely to be another sea of red.
I am old enough that I recall those days as an editor when you could experience the adrenalin rush of a circulation spike. No such thing today. In the past five years, moderate decline, say negative one to three per cent, is as good as it gets.
The romantic in us wants to believe newspaper decline will plateau. There is no evidence of this.
However, there are seven big mistakes that newspapers regularly make that are killing them. Avoid them, and you can make print stronger for longer.
“Didn’t you get the email? Print is dead!”
Newspaper circulation globally, aside from China and India (60 per cent of the market), continues to nose-dive. Australia and Oceania (including New Zealand) has experienced among the steepest declines, a loss of towards 25 per cent over five years, according to the last WAN-IFRA World Press Trends survey.
The response from publishers has been to move news to online products. But digital ad revenue has proven a mirage, not the least because Facebook and Google have taken almost all of the new sales volume. Some media companies have responded by rewiring their business models and leverage their subscriber base for new sources of revenue, selling them other products and services.
But what about those publishers who still have significant newspaper properties, who are still making a buck? How can they make print stronger for longer?
The three biggest problems I find common to media owners and managers are:
When I sit down with those facing this perfect storm, I first offer reassurance.
As a former editorial director and newspaper editor, I think the print industry deserves a break. For the past 10 to 15 years, newspapers have responded as best they could to full-frontal assaults from the internet and social media - and many have weathered the storm, albeit a little beaten and jaded.
Newspaper people are smart people - and they have had a crack at a range of initiatives to improve their products and sales.
The second thing I do is try and help them learn from the mistakes of others. Certainly, I have come across some common themes in working for and with publishers over three decades.
I would distill these mistakes down to seven big ones:
* Stuart Howie is the Executive Director of Flame Tree Media, a media and communications consultancy. He consults to media in Australia and New Zealand helping them to transform their newsrooms and operations.
Stuart Howie is a Canberra-based communications consultant. He is the author of The DIY Newsroom, which won Social Media Book of the Year at the Australian Business Book Awards. Stuart has worked in media, publishing and communications for more than 30 years as an executive, editor and strategist.