Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Martore on downside of cutting back on print days

"You're getting people out of their habit. I can't predict [the publishing strategy]. Five years ago, there wasn't a tablet. I feel highly confident we're going to have a printed product."

-- CEO Gracia Martore, speaking yesterday to the annual American Society of News Editors convention.


  1. "A printed product" is not necessarily a seven-day printed product. Or a seven-day printed, three-day home delivered product. "I feel highly confident" is not the same as "I guarantee." "I can't predict" is the honest part of the answer.

    "You're getting people out of their habit" is in reference to the Advance strategy of cutting down to three days of home delivery per week. But the reality of that strategy is that recognizing that "their habit" is changing without any prompting from Advance, as most younger readers (and many older readers) adopt primarily digital news reading habits. The thinking at Advance is not to swim against that tide, but to go with the flow. Reducing home delivery is an attempt to nudge more primarily-print readers to adopt the digital options. There's some risk to that but it's going to happen anyway.

  2. Bottom line, "a printed product" is only as useful as the quality of its content. Like that's gonna happen.

  3. What about maintain the 'habit' by making products a must-read? The habit declines when the need for the product declines through quality, value, relevance. The 'habit' actually is only an issue if the days we do publish are not enticing and compelling. Keeping 7 days for 'habit' reasons is expense we could redirect to quality and impact - for readers and customers.

  4. Anonymous 1:50: Making your product compelling is well, good, and an obvious no-brainer (and I get your point that Gannett et al are not investing enough to maintain or build quality), but this is about delivery strategies. Even you you had the world's greatest printed newspaper today, your audience would be bailing out because those who prefer print are dying off, while at the other end of the demographic spectrum the overwhelming preference is for digital delivery. (Everyone's anecdotal evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.) Therefore a publisher has two options: (a) continue to resist the shift hoping to preserve print profits, or (b) building digital market share. Advance has chosen to build that share by reducing what it offers in print. That's smart and forward-looking. Their problem is that their digital offerings are not at all compelling. Martore seems to recognize the shift is going on, by mentioning that tablets have been invented, but is sticking her head in the sand by pursuing option (a).

  5. If you make everything digital, you make everything able to be controlled by someone else. Not that it isn't already, but look at the slippery slope America is on. When all is digital and someone wants their message out all they'll have to do is flip a switch. It's already happened elsewhere. Will newspapers then become what they once were or cower down to higher authorities? Will they even be able to...IF they even want to?

  6. No responsible newspaper company can go cold turkey and cut off print and go 100% digital. No one in charge believes print will be around in its current capacity in 15 years. The trick is to move into digital while still generating print funds. But to think for a moment that a public company is going to invest in print is silly. You keep it going until the new medium is not new anymore and has taken its rightful place. No company is investing millions into print. It isn't prudent. But you can "invest" in your fantasy if you wish.

  7. I don't care what happens to print at Gannett. Gannett didn't care about who they hurt by letting people go for no good reason.

  8. There is money left to get from print. As long as it is significant, we should do it.

  9. Let's break down what these so-called strategically minded CEO's said about print:

    Talamantes said, "the company will have to be "rigorous and tough" on costs."
    [Translation: We will be laying off more people in the next 5 years.]

    "We're not contemplating (cutting back on print)," Thompson said. "Demand for the printed product remains incredibly strong."
    [He apparently forgot to finish his sentence. 'Demand for the printed product remains incredibly strong with people age 60 and up.]

    Martore said that the fast-changing natures of the news industry and of technology make forecasting difficult.
    [Earth to Gracia. The forecast is very easy. Newspaper readership and circulation will continue to decline. It will not stop declining. It will never grow ever again. Duh.]

    "The downside of cutting (down on) days or other models is that you're getting people out of their habit,"
    [Poor Gracia forgot to finish her sentence also: "You're getting people over the age of 60 out of their habit." Again, Earth to Gracia: Anyone under the age of 40 and even 50 no longer have a consistent newspaper reading habit, if at all - in print AND, I'd go as far to say - online or anywhere traditional media has tried to distribute it's content.]

    "I can't predict (the publishing strategy). Five years ago, there wasn't a tablet. I feel highly confident we're going to have a printed product."
    [I can predict the future and my name is not Nostradamus. Any company that generates more than half it's revenue from printed newspapers will have to cut half it's workforce or be out of business in five years.]

    Gracia said, "We've got to get off worrying about platforms."
    [Too late. You should have done that in 2000 when you had a chance.]

    "I think we were slow to change," Weymouth (Wash Post) said.
    [No S#$% Sherlock.]

    "We had a great business model and were hoping that it wouldn't go away. But it went away.
    [Self reflection is beautiful thing. But, it doesn't create new business models.]

    Having a physical paper strengthens your international push," Thompson said.
    [Oh God. There's no hope for these companies when CEOs say stuff like this.]

    In summation, if this panel represents the future of the newspaper/media/digital news industry....well, I think you can finish this sentence.

    1. Excellent post.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. I have been a single copy carrier for a long time now and you who say only people over 60 read the paper don't know what you're talking about. I see 20 somethings, 30 somethings, all ages, still buying the paper. Sure it will never be the same as in the past but only because newspaper companies make it that way. Bottom line, people would still buy the paper if the cost equals content and quality. I asked a 20 something, at a store who was talking about newspapers, if he still buys them. He said once in a while when something local happens but not as much as he used to or would like. The reason was not because he gets it digitally, but because of the price.

    Readers just didn't "go away", they were pushed away.

    1. I know the people who always say people over fifty are the only ones that still read the papers are wrong. It has been declining but only last year when I worked for Gannett there were many subscribers in their thirties and forties. The one I would talk to were getting sick of the declining customer service following all the lay offs at the paper. they were not enthusiastic with the Paper going to a digital device they wanted the printed paper they had grown used too. That is what Martore was referring too. Well some be converts to digital yes but not most and certainly not all of them.

  11. "We've got to get off worrying about platforms."

    Really....because it seems like that's all we've worried about over the last few years.

  12. All I know is that I was recently laid off from a Gannett community paper. I spend a career out there touting the paper, but it's becoming increasingly obvious to me that no one relies on our local paper anymore. People look at the website in times of crisis, but I can't find anyone who is paying the 10 bucks a month. My social circle is a demographic Gannett should easily own, but the embarrassing stories, headline sensationalism and very bad delivery practices have all of my friends scratching their heads and losing faith.


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