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Lessons from top U.S. publishers

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World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Lessons from top U.S. publishers

(In the photo, from left: Thomas A. Silvestri, president and publisher, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Vice President, Richmond Group, BH Media Group; Larry Kramer, president and publisher, USA Today; Terry J. Kroeger, president and CEO, BH Media Group; and Stephen P. Hills, president and general manager, The Washington Post.)
 
Larry Kramer, president and publisher of USA Today, Terry Kroeger, president and CEO of BH Media Group, and Stephen P. Hills, president and general manager of The Washington Post, gave some insights into what has worked for them.

Generating revenue

All three newspaper executives agreed that readers are consuming more media than ever, which has brought about positive changes in revenue.

At USA Today, Kramer noted that the expansions made throughout Gannett’s 81 local newspapers as well as their national publication has made them more efficient and generated more revenue. Some of their changes include taking on a large national story and publishing it the same day throughout all their markets along with local stories.

“We’re seeing a hunger for real and better journalism and we’ve seen that pay off in dollars,” said Kramer. “It’s been an aggressive campaign where we spend more money and make more money.”

BH Media has done well so far this year too. Kroeger noted that the company’s readership and revenue figures have increased significantly due to the company charging for content.

Hills also gave an optimistic assessment of the Post’s overall state. However, he was honest about the prospects for print revenue.

“As we think about the future, we have to be grounded in realism,” said Hills. “Print is important for our future because it fuels the ability to have a digital future, but if you think growth is going to come from print, we believe that’s not a good belief.”

Similar to USA Today, the Post’s investments have yielded results as they have put money into their newsrooms and technology.

On having wealthy owners

The Washington Post has undergone several changes since Jeff Bezos acquired the newspaper.

Bezos has helped the Post become innovative and has developed the technological aspect of the newspaper, which sets it apart from other media outlets.

“It’s nice to have a billionaire technology genius at the helm and the big thing we’ve seen is: Money is fantastic and patience is fantastic but these things have to pay off; it’s not a charity,” said Hills.

Warren Buffett, who owns BH Media, is not as tech-savvy, noted Kroeger. However, having him as the owner has changed the way the company measures its success.

“We don’t have to think in terms of quarters or even months – or even years,” said Kroger. “Warren thinks in terms of five to 10 years, and that gives us the patience to build for the future with digital products.”

Digital lessons

Legacy publishers tend to adapt new digital practices as they see fit, but USA Today’s Kramer noted that it is not up to them to decide how quickly their companies can embrace new technological forms.

“We don’t control that. Look back at the past year – you’ve seen bigger and more powerful phones and the ability to be mobile happens so much faster and easier, and the marketplace drives this,” said Kramer.

He noted that USA Today has had to “react quickly” to new products that come out, because people tend to purchase those products and consume more news on them at a fast pace.

Hills agreed with Kramer, saying newspapers need to experiment quickly, ensure they have the capabilities to execute their experiments, and partner or outsource when they need support.

Kroeger asserted that the only companies that will succeed in print-digital transformation are those who are willing to put ideas to work – and to “kill” ideas if they do not.

Looking to the future

All three executives said they are optimistic about the newspaper industry because of their current growth as legacy publishers compared to newer media outlets. In addition, they all agreed that the industry has made it out of the recession and bounced back to some degree. Furthermore, being in the digital age has helped the industry evolve and adapt as a whole, which they plant to continue doing.

– Jessica Martinez, NAA

Author

WAN-IFRA External Contributor

Date

2015-06-02 11:33

Author information

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