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Newspaper Publishers Optimistic About the Future, MU Survey Shows

Oct. 03, 2012

Story Contact(s):
Nathan Hurst, hurstn@missouri.edu, 573-882-6217

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Despite a declining readership and a poor economy that has forced the newspaper industry to drastically cut staff and expenditures in recent years, publishers of U.S. daily newspapers remain optimistic about the future of their industry. In the largest survey of its kind, Michael Jenner, the Houston Harte Endowed Chair at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Reynolds Journalism Institute at MU, found that nearly two-thirds of responding publishers expressed optimism for the future, while only 4 percent of respondents were not optimistic about the industry.

Jenner’s survey consisted of in-depth interviews of publishers, presidents, senior vice presidents or other senior managers from more than 450 U.S. daily newspapers. Despite declining print circulation numbers in recent years, Jenner found that more than 60 percent of publishers do not envision a time in the future when their individual publications will no longer issue print versions of the news.

While publishers are optimistic about the future of print newspapers, Jenner found that they are committed to moving forward on digital platforms as well. The survey showed that 90 percent of publishers expect revenue increases for their digital news publications in the next year.

“Publishers are definitely feeling a sense of urgency to embrace digital platforms,” Jenner said. “Even though most publishers see a future in printed newspapers, most know that digital platforms, such as websites and mobile applications, are where the potential for increased revenue exists.”

The survey also indicated many of the serious threats to the industry as reported by publishers. Jenner believes that while most publishers view declining print circulation and advertisement revenue as the biggest threats, one of the most serious threats is the lack of development resources.

“More than 40 percent of publishers viewed declining resources as a serious threat to their publications,” Jenner said. “With the poor economy, many newspapers have been forced to implement large cuts to their staffs in recent years. This makes it very difficult for papers to innovate and develop new revenue models, particularly in the digital sphere. If newspapers want to survive in their current form, they are going to have to find ways to maintain enough resources to find new forms of revenue.”

Jenner presented his findings at the annual conferences of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association and New England Newspaper and Press Association. The research also was shared with the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association at its annual conference.

 

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