Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Aggressive Plans Unveiled as NAA Publishers Meet

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Aggressive Plans Unveiled as NAA Publishers Meet

Article excerpt

Alive and well.

That was the overarching message from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) to the more than 1,200 newspaper publishers and industry leaders who gathered at the historic and elegant Hotel del Coronado overlooking the Pacific Ocean near San Diego for the association's 1999 annual convention.

But while newspaper advertising revenues from classified, retail, and national are expected to be as strong in 1999 as they were in 1998, which showed a 6.3% increase over the previous year to $44 billion, the flip side of the issue is readership, which has decreased from 62.32 in 1990 to 56.18 million at present.

In an effort to maintain and build on the industry's leadership role, the NAA announced a number of aggressive steps to tackle several issues such as expanding readership, repositioning the newspaper, and making it "easier to do business."

In remarks to industry leaders, Richard D. Gottlieb, NAA chairman who is also president and CEO of Lee Enterprises Inc., in Davenport, Iowa, and John Sturm, president and CEO of the NAA, said newspapers are facing the challenge of increased and diversified competition.

In his opening day remarks, Sturm reminded newspaper executives that the industry captures six out of 10 adults daily and seven out of 10 on Sundays.

"We have issues, and we're addressing them. We have new competition, and we're meeting it," says Sturm.

Gottlieb said that while newspapers have had to contend with broadcast television, cable TV, specialty publications, and now the Internet, the industry is still within 10% of market share that it had when Harry Truman was president. He noted that the industry, which was known for lack of cooperation, has turned into one of the more collaborative industries.

While print circulation and readership issues were high on the industry's agenda, the role and power of the Internet was present. With 930 newspapers having Web sites, many are still struggling with developing a business model that will make the cyber venture profitable.

One of the greatest threats to newspapers is in the area of classified advertising, where online and specialty print competitors are seeking to siphon off business from newspapers.

In response to the online challenge, the NAA launched a national newspaper classified branding effort called "Bona Fide Classified," with a mark that is a kind of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

"This branding initiative will unify newspaper classified advertising online and help our members capitalize on their dominant position in the marketplace. Our research shows that consumers will look at this mark and instantly know that the ad comes from a credible, reliable, and trusted source," says Sturm.

Competitors for classified ads include everyone from Yahoo!, a prominent Web portal site; to Microsoft, the giant software maker; and eBay, an online auction.

Consumer research conducted prior to the mark's launch found that 73% of those surveyed knew the mark meant "genuine, real, and authentic." More than two-thirds (69%) said that seeing the Bona Fide Classified mark would make them more likely to contact the advertiser. The male and female consumers, age 21-40, who were asked about the mark overwhelmingly said the news-hawker image created a feeling of credibility, history, and trustworthiness. …

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