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Newspapers can succeed in the post-print era

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Newspapers throughout the transition to the digitalization era continues to challenge the industry. The accelerated decline in revenues forced the hands for these outlets to reinvent themselves. In a recent report released today by the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) it revealed successful strategies and insights that work for four specific different American newspapers.

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The study looked in great detail four examples of newspapers revamping their efforts to produce effective, profitable, and improving editorial products in the digital age. In addition it is a follow-up to a previous report titled “The Search for a New Business Model” dating back to March, 2012.

The Internet has played a devil's advocate role by transforming all that was into a new universe of possibilities. Of course nobody can deny the economic landscape at the present time has contributed to layoffs and shrinking newsrooms across the country.

Which fours news organizations were examined for this study? According to the PEJ the news entities that participated in this case study were the following: The Naples (Fla.) Daily News, The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat, The Deseret News (Salt Lake City), and the Columbia (Tenn.) Daily Herald.

"These four newspapers offer some hope and valuable lessons for a newspaper industry that has faced enormous economic and technological disruption," said report author Mark Jurkowitz, Associate Director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Our research shows that a few key traits underpin the success at these four newspapers: strong leadership, the ability to change the internal culture, and commitment to improving the editorial product - even with reduced resources."

The Associate Director Jurkowitz went on to assert that these key traits (Leadership and vision, internet culture in newsrooms and the editorial product) or the threads amongst the four news organizations have become the pillars of success in building fundamental business models for this industry.

Below is a breakdown (findings by the PEJ) and profiles of what each individual newspaper did to improve its financial status:

The Naples (Fla.) Daily News (weekday circulation 44,876). After the publisher and his managerial team overhauled the composition of the sales force and its operating philosophy, the paper saw overall revenue growth in 2011 and 2012 - with print revenue a key part of the success story. The paper's leadership calculates that the sales reorganization is responsible for about a 10% increase in ad revenue.

The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat (circulation 53,292). As part of a revamped business plan, the paper developed the Media Lab, a sophisticated digital agency that provides a full range of online marketing services to merchants. In its first year, the lab accounted for roughly 25% of the paper's digital revenue and is expected to grow revenues by about 60% in 2013.

The (Salt Lake City) Deseret News (circulation 91,638). Former Harvard Business professor Clark Gilbert engineered a major reorganization of the Deseret Media properties, building a digital company, creating a new-and more narrowly focused-editorial identity for the newspaper and unveiling a weekly national print edition. Digital revenue has been growing at over 40% a year since 2010, while daily and Sunday circulation jumped about 33% and 90% respectively from September 2011 to September 2012.

The Columbia (Tenn.) Daily Herald (circulation 12,744). This small, but aggressive daily in an economically hard-hit Tennessee community rolled out more than a half dozen new revenue ideas in 2012 alone, some in print, but most in digital. The resulting growth in online revenues allowed the paper to keep overall annual revenue losses well below the national average-about 2% in 2012.

"There are positive takeaways here for the rest of the industry," said Amy Mitchell, Acting Director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Still, these innovations are works in progress and these newspapers remain vulnerable to the economic disruption that faces the industry as a whole."

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