There's a question I get asked a lot by friends, colleagues and audience members at conferences. There are variations, but they all go something like, "How do you find time to do everything that you do?"
I usually just answer with something like, "I never sleep" or "I don't know. I've always done a dozen things at once."
"Sure," I answered. "Of course. How can I help?"
His question was straightforward and deliberate. "What's really going on at newspapers across the country?"
I knew it wouldn't be a quick answer. I had been standing for two hours and there were a couple of chairs in the corner of the room, near the door. I suggested this was a conversation that required sitting.
As I began to answer his question, the area began to fill. Soon, there were a dozen or more publishers, editors and others standing in a semicircle, intently listening in on the conversation. I appreciated their interest. It's a bit humbling to know people sincerely care what I think about anything.
It's funny how time can change expectations. It didn't take long to realize print wasn't going away, at least not as quickly as we anticipated back in those heady days. It was tempting to ignore the facts and move full-steam ahead into the digital era, leaving print behind. Most of the folks I know who took that approach aren't in the news business any more.
At newspaper conferences, I often give a "pop quiz" to learn a little about what is going on at newspapers and what journalist think is going on at papers across the country. I used to be surprised that most attendees could guess, with relative success, the answers to the quiz.
It's been two hours since I received word concerning the news that tariffs aimed at newsprint had been overturned. The first person to write me was Ron White, a retired university journalism chair who now lives in North Carolina. Within minutes, stories from major news outlets were spread across my "extra wide" computer monitor.
In two of my previous columns, I've mentioned other newspapers I've visited recently, and I can't help but notice a trend. Every paper I've visited over the past few months seems to be doing well It's not because of me. They were all doing well before I came along. Some of these papers were weeklies, some dailies, and a couple of others were somewhere in-between.
"GateHouse looks forward to leveraging our national resources to support the community that will enhance quality of life and help create a stronger community," Jason Taylor of GateHouse is quoted as saying.
Excuse me while I ponder on that for a moment.
I've noticed a definite trend lately. It might be related to the increased number of industry activities I'm involved in these days, or perhaps it's just be one of those things that can't be explained. Whatever the reason, I've been getting a lot more email over the past few months.
Today, I'm going to take a look at the differences in how daily and weekly newspaper publishers view the benefits of their digital efforts.
Today, I'd like to focus on one particular question from the survey. Question No. 7 asks, "Compared to three years ago, how is the overall health of your primary publication(s)?"
I suppose any time is the right time to look over your newspaper operation and search for ways to make improvements., but the beginning of the year seems especially appropriate for such a task.
As I sat at my trusted keyboard to begin, I sent a note out to newspaper friends throughout North America to ask for their suggestions. Let me share a few of those first.
Recently, Ed Henninger and I did something we've never done before. We taught a class together. Titled, "What You Need to Know About Paragraph Styles," we took the group through a very fast paced 90-minute session, covering everything from simple nested styles to advanced nested styles.
The second task was to meet with his circulation staff and discuss ways to increase circulation. The conversation was lively, and we seemed to come up with a few new ideas worth pursuing. Toward the end of the discussion, I made a suggestion that doesn't take a lot of effort, but usually garners great rewards: creating focus groups made up of readers and non-readers to look over their products and suggest possible improvements.
NewspaperAcademy.com features training you need from people you trust. Join Kevin Slimp, Ed Henninger, John Hatcher, Tim Smith and other trusted names in newspaper training for webinars, video training and more.
It's deadline, and like many of you, I have to get this column out. In an effort to get that done on time, let me share a few helpful hints for those of us doing our best to get the paper out at deadline
When does holding on to older software and hardware become detrimental? Kevin takes a look at software, hardware and the dangers of hanging on too long.
I am an honest-to-goodness stockholder in McDonald's Corporation (MCD on the New York Stock Exchange). Yes, that's right, the hamburger guys. Because I'm a stockholder, I get things like annual reports, proxy statements, and I get to vote at stockholders meetings (although that generally takes place online). I even get letters from CEO and President Steve Easterbrook from time to time.
In September, I began an experiment that has turned out quite nicely. As part of a project a group of us began working on last year, I created an online radio station and began interviewing folks I thought would be of interest to journalists. The results have been fascinating, and I decided to share quotes from a few of the interviews in this column.
Those of you who write columns for a living know what I'm talking about. This is one of those days when I'm not sure what to write. It's not that I lack subject matter. The options are almost endless, and I don't have the inclination or space to cover everything in one column.
What are the three most common questions I'm asked on-site?
When asked why I receive so many requests for help from newspapers, I simply mark it down to longevity. I've been around the business long enough for most publishers, and others, to know me. On Tuesday of last week, I received requests to visit five newspapers in four states. For some, the most pressing need is training. A few seek advice concerning the overall structure of their operations. Still others are hoping I can find the solution to problems which have plagued their newspapers for too long.
Industry takes note of "self made" publisher who succeeds by following his instincts, instead of jumping on latest trends.
I feel like a broken record when I remind people just how well community newspapers are doing across America. As I work with hundreds of papers each year, it's a common theme as publishers talk to me about their individual operations. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw a story in Editor & Publisher titled, "Despite 'Doom and Gloom,' Community Newspapers are Growing Stronger" in early June.
Imagine with me, if you will.
It's January 2020. NFL football has been making record profits, primarily due to product licensing and TV contracts, year after year.
Borrowing an old line from Ford, "Quality" really "is job one." Reduce quality, and the result is fewer readers. Reduce readers, and the result is fewer advertisers. Reduce advertisers, and the result is fewer pages. Reduce pages, and the result is even fewer readers. It's a never-ending cycle.
When asked to guess the percentage of newspapers that are independent, not related to any group or other newspapers, most of the attendees guessed the number would be pretty low. They were surprised to learn that 53 percent of newspapers in the U.S. and Canada are independent, without any relationship to even a small group.