Continuing a practice begun in late 2014, I contacted newspaper publishers, CEOs, owners and other top management throughout the U.S. and Canada to get information about the state of their newspapers. After a week, I've received just shy of 800 responses. I suspect that number will increase even more by the time I finish summarizing all the information.
Interestingly, this particular survey had the best response of any I've conducted. Papers of all sizes and types are represented in statistically reliable numbers. There are plenty of metro dailies, as well as tiny weeklies, and everything in between. Even a few monthly and online-only publications took part.
Read on to learn what was most interesting to me.
An editor in South Carolina wrote to me yesterday, "I'm always amazed at your productivity."
I get that a lot these days. Since yesterday, I've written an opinion piece that's already filling my inbox with responses from readers; my fictional weekly serial, The Good Folks of Lennox Valley; and my alarm just reminded me that I'm on deadline to write my column for newspaper professionals.
Looking over my email, I noticed there has been an increase in the number of folks asking for technical advice over the past few weeks. Perhaps work slowed down a bit over the holidays, allowing people more time to write.
Whatever the reason, I've always believed in "dancing with the one who brung ya," so it seems like a good time to answer some questions from readers.
I don't have to spend very long at a newspaper office to tell you how they're doing in terms of circulation, readership, ad sales and profits. No one has to tell me. There are qualities that lead to successful newspapers, and without them it's a good bet that there are some problems in one or more of those four areas.
I could have listed fifty newspapers in this column, because I ran into a lot of papers that are doing things right in 2015. And it's showing in their numbers. Due to space limitations, here are a few that stood out in my memory.
I got out the dusty thesaurus and found a synonym that best describes the newspapers in Minnesota: phenomenal. That's the best word I know of to describe the trip I just took to Minnesota. Yes, that's right, Minnesota.
I've worked with more than 100 papers in Minnesota this year. I know, that's a lot of papers. And there is something that's very apparent as I crisscross the frozen tundra (OK, tundra might be a stretch) of Minnesota, visiting papers from McGregor to Pipestone to Preston: newspapers in Minnesota are doing really well. That truth was never more apparent to me than in late October, when I visited papers in the central and western areas of the state.
The email came to me at 6:15 last night, just as I was getting ready to take my two teenagers out for dinner. It was from Joe, a publisher at a small weekly who, like many newspaper publishers, has become my good friend over the past 20 years.
Before I tell you more about the email, let's step back in time to yesterday afternoon when I mentioned to some folks in my office that I needed to come up with a topic for today's column. A couple of ideas were tossed around when, finally, I said, "Don't worry. Something will come up. It always does."
I just didn't know that "something" would be my friend, Joe.
The Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame celebrated its opening on Friday, July 17, 2015. It was a glorious evening, filled with a celebration fit for the industry it represents.
Last week, I spent a day with a weekly newspaper in Eastern Ohio. I even took a pic of the big building shaped like a basket to prove it. After lunch, the publisher asked something I've heard quite often in my visits with 100-plus newspapers this year, "Could you take a little time to teach us some things about Bridge?"
With so many newspapers reporting a really good year, why are there still newspapers who aren't? I thought about this as I drove to the airport this morning (the roads are pretty clear at 2 a.m. in Sioux Falls, making it safe to think while driving) and came up with what I'm calling:
My top four reasons some newspapers aren't having a great year
I couldn’t help but think of all the speakers and teachers I’ve had over the years.
So between trips to Edmonton, Alberta and Preston, Minnesota, I found an afternoon to spend with the staff of the Standard-Banner. The request from Dale was simple enough: “Can you teach us to use InCopy?”
My most common response is, “I need a new manager.” I suppose the honest answer is that I go when I’m asked and people in the coldest areas are practical jokers or they just seem to need me more in the winter and early spring.
You know the drill. We work in a deadline-driven business. We get it done. No matter how busy we are or what is already on our plates, we get it done.
Well, Hank, here’s another one to add to the list of about a dozen or so I sent you last week and those were off the top of my head. As Hank would probably attest, he finally said, “Enough!”
And just so you know, there's happy ending.
Longtime photo editors remember the Browser from versions of Photoshop prior to CS2. Since then, Bridge has been included in all Creative Suite/Cloud packages and also with stand-alone Adobe Photoshop.
My dilemma doesn’t revolve around those things, however. I promised to pen a question/answer column this month and I keep my promises.
Here’s my official advice. Take it for what it’s worth.
“At the risk of making your head grow any bigger, I thought I’d show this to you.”
He was holding a copy of The Oklahoma Publisher, the official publication of the Oklahoma Press Association.
The second challenge was a bit more interesting. Mike mentioned that producing their publications would be much more efficient if he, along with others who sometimes worked away from the office, could connect to the office network from remote locations. He went a little further than that. Not only did they want to connect to their servers, they wanted to be able to work from home or wherever exactly the same way they did back at the office.