Are Newspapers Fading? And What Can B2B Communicators Do About it?

The newspaper business is certainly getting a lot of attention these days, but not much of it is good news. The Newspaper Association of America recently released data on newspaper advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2012 and it’s a trending chart pointing in the wrong direction. And both the WSJ and NYT are aggressively pursuing more online video content — not an investment for print. Perhaps not all is doom and gloom as Warren Buffet announced that he’s getting into the business of newspapers, but he plans to do with them is still uncertain.

A newsagent's shop in Hong Kong.

A newsagent’s shop in Hong Kong.

INMA, the world’s leading provider of global best practices and marketing ideas for news media companies, has pulled together a nice summary of everything that’s happened in the last month. Three points relevant to communicators from the piece are as follows:

Era of blank-check journalism is over:Companies re-committing to news publishing are prioritising what they do best and cutting away the rest, whether in print or digital.

Seven-day publishing “only” foundation: The U.S. market is staring in the face a business model of weekly print or even no print this decade.Abandoning journalism for the tyranny of the click: Let’s agree that Britney Spears’ love life is not going to become the lead story no matter how many clicks.Then there’s also this from Jack Shafer of Reuters in his blog asking, “Who jumped first from the newspaper sinking ship?”

This is at least the second time in newspaper history that collapsed advertising revenues and rising production costs have thrown the newspaper biz into a crisis.

Unlike the tech bubble, the newspaper bubble won’t come back because it can’t.

And Intelligent Life from The Economist asks, “Can the Guardian survive?”

Where many newspapers treated the web with suspicion, the Guardian dived in, starting early (1995), experimenting widely, pioneering live-blogging, embracing citizen journalism, mastering slideshows and timelines and interactive graphics. By March 2012 it was putting up 400 pieces of content every 24 hours.

The question hanging in the air is how long the print Guardian can last.

Meanwhile, I would suggest you also watch this video with managing director Rob Grimshaw talking with paidContent about the end of print and the rise of digital.

So what does all of this “doom and gloom” newspaper talk mean for B2B communicators? Here are five of my recommendations:

  1. It’s still business as usual. There are still plenty of newspapers being printed and read daily. While the overall numbers shrink, they are still an important medium to communicate what we are doing and build our messages.
  2. Understand the digital transition. With more content going online and being turned into video and audio content, we need to better understand who is the best person to pitch and use with the news outlet. While a story idea you may have doesn’t work very well for print, the graphics you’ve created may be very good for a short video or infographic.
  3. Don’t just have a pitch; have a story — Newspaper reporters are now being asked to do more with less. If you want to have a better chance of scoring a news story come prepared with facts, graphics, third-party sources and research. If you can build a story around an idea you can help provide critical resources to a journalist and save them time.
  4. Focus on your blog — You don’t have a corporate blog? Now is definitely the time to put it into your plan for 2013, which includes having the resources (in-house and external) and strategy for content. There are a number of reasons to work on a blog and invest in the content, but nothing is more important than using it for telling your story. There are plenty of good examples of corporate blogs that work (ours is OpenMarkets) so benchmark yours against the ones you like.
  5. Embrace social journalists — There are plenty of newspaper journalists who have fully integrated Twitter into their everyday life, such as Jeremy Warner, Chris Adams and Alex Frangos to name a few. If you still don’t think you need to be on Twitter then go back and read from the top of this post.

The recent changes and announcements seem to reflect a major shift in the newspaper business. Have we finally reached a tipping point? Is this a moment in time that shifts the thinking of communicators and how we look at the newspaper industry from first choice to third choice in communicating our messages? Time will tell, but it appears that time is moving faster than ever before and the changes this time are not reversible.