After rocky years, newspaper industry stabilizing, growing – Citizens Voice
First, a cold and snowy observation. Obviously, we didn’t do winter correctly so we had to do December and January over again in February and March. As April 1 approaches, we can count on one hand the number of days that did not require Arctic clothing just to go for a short walk.
I’m not complaining about living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Actually most of the states that surround us had a much colder and wetter winter than we had.
Climate change, fact or fiction? And, that concludes my weather rant.
I actually want to talk about some good news that affects all of us.
The newspaper industry seems to be stabilizing and even growing. This is something we haven’t seen in more than five years. Nationally, Wall Street is taking a more favorable view of the newspaper business. Several analysts have recommended buying newspaper stocks because they have become “undervalued” and the business itself is showing signs of growth.
Also, several astute businessmen have been buying newspapers. In 2½ years, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has purchased more than 70 daily and non-daily newspapers. Boston businessman and Red Sox owner John W. Henry purchased the Boston Globe and the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram. In our nation’s capital, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, bought the storied Washington Post from the Graham family.
On the home front, the CEOs of Times-Shamrock reported a good year for our daily newspaper division. For the first time in a few years, our revenue and profits saw increases. One of the big contributors to our revenue increases was our All Access plan, where our daily subscribers get access to all of our web and mobile sites. It’s probably the biggest single move to date that we have made in the digital arena.
The fact that our revenue and profits are up is good news for our family business, but it’s also good news for you. If you’re reading this column, you obviously enjoy reading a newspaper and if we remain financially healthy, we’ll publish for as long as you like to read our paper. Surprisingly, our financial health seriously impacts non-readers, as well.
There are only two sources for local news in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Our five daily papers between Pottsville and Towanda cover about 12 counties. The other news source would be the two television news departments. Television news tends to focus on major events – murders, robberies, accidents and fires. Items such as legislative actions or budgets on the state, county or municipal level can’t easily be covered efficiently when a TV newscaster has only about 15 minutes to cover the news in 17 counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Also, local TV news departments are small in comparison to our newspapers’ newsrooms. WNEP-TV has 30 reporters and anchors, plus five meteorologists and WBRE-TV (which also provides news on WYOU-TV and WOLF-TV) has 16 reporters and three meteorologists. Combined, all TV news operations employ 46 news people to cover 17 counties.
Our newspapers serve 12 of the 17 counties in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-designated market area and we do it with a staff of 170 news reporters. So, what do our extra 124 reporters do? While we also cover the accidents, crimes and fires, we cover more than 500 cities, boroughs, townships, school boards, government authorities, commissions and zoning boards. These meetings don’t convey the immediate excitement of a big fire, accident or crime, but decisions made by these groups decide the fate of your towns, counties, schools, sewage treatment plants and many things in your daily lives that ultimately will affect your quality of life.
Oh, by the way, these groups also decide how more than $1 billion of your money is spent and how they should tax you to raise that money.
Once you know this, it’s easy to see that newspaper readers are on average more informed. Statistically, 85 percent of people who vote in local elections are newspaper readers. Maybe it’s because they take the time to understand what’s going on and feel the need to influence it.
I believe that many retailers saw that newspapers were still relevant, based on the actions taken by Ron Johnson when he took over JC Penney in November 2011. Johnson, fresh out of running a successful rollout of iPhones and other Apple products, immediately made profound changes at JC Penney. One of his changes was to completely eliminate newspaper advertising from his media mix.
The effects of that and other changes were immediate. JC Penney’s sales plummeted 25 percent in the first year of his management. Johnson was undeterred and continued to ignore newspapers until he was fired in April 2013.
The news was not bad for everyone. Retailers like Boscov’s and Macy’s continued to use newspapers and made gains at Penney’s expense.
So, I’m glad I have good news to report and I’m glad you read it in a newspaper, even if that newspaper appears on your computer or mobile device.
Thanks for reading.
Bill Lynett is publisher emeritus of Times-Shamrock Newspapers.