Converting Print Profits to Digital: A Healthy Newsroom Is the Key to Success

Article excerpt

IT'S ANYTHING BUT A SURPRISE, BUT THE NEWS INDUSTRY IS failing.

The worst of the storm is upon us now. According to the American Society of News Editors, 5,200 daily newspaper reporters lost their jobs in 2009--the least severe cut since 2007, although it still drives up the total number to 13,500. Since 2000, layoffs and closing of newsrooms cost the newspaper industry $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity. And sadly, more bad news is expected for the immediate future.

Massive conglomerate owners of the largest daily paper down to smaller weekly publishers are feeling the burn and many are trying to sooth their financial sting by shrinking their newsrooms. With fewer reporters comes a drop in fresh and detailed copy to fill up the paper since it's cheaper to pick up syndicated content than produce homegrown material.

The Internet has wreaked havoc on everything from subscription sales to advertising rates, and now the industry is not only fighting each other for readers and potential advertisers, but they're facing masses that refuse to buy a copy of the paper because they expect information to be provided gratis.

So how is a self-respecting publisher supposed to survive, let alone make money, in this wild and unforgiving new environment? Dozens of publications have shuttered their doors since this question was first posed around the turn of the new millennium, and many more remain on the brink--deep in debt, severely cutting staff, and accepting poor long-term business decisions to survive in the immediate future.

Perhaps the solution calls for embracing the new wave of journalism while holding on to many of the tenets and guidelines that kept newspapers thriving for decades. Why throw out the baby with the bath water, just because everyone is anxious to join the hype surrounding the Internet, smart phones, and other new technology?

This means continuing to produce newspapers, at least in some capacity. There are just some situations in which an acceptable alternative for print has yet to be found (i.e. at breakfast, or riding the subway to work). An audience, possibly shrinking, also exists of those who prefer to hold copy in their hands rather than read off a screen.

At the same time, it is imperative newspapers embrace the Internet and technology. …