Adjusting business models and finding new sources of income helped the newspaper industry slow its revenue decline to just 2 percent in 2012. Its ability to adapt is an example for associations facing similar challenges.
The newspaper industry’s revenue peaked in 2005, and it’s been downhill ever since.
But the latest figures released by the Newspaper Association of America show that the long decline could be easing. Newspaper revenue fell just 2 percent in 2012—thanks, in part, to the inclusion of new revenue sources in NAA’s data.
When I see organizations creating new revenue streams that work, it is always because it meets a member need.
“America’s newspaper media are transforming themselves,” Caroline Little, NAA’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “In virtually every community they serve, newspapers have the biggest newsrooms, the best-known brands, and significant audience market share. Now they are building on those to find new ways to serve audiences and local businesses.”
For the first time, NAA included in its estimate revenue generated from e-commerce, event hosting, advertising-agency-like services, and commercial delivery and printing services that papers have started to provide.
Newspapers “are applying creativity and operating outside their existing patterns because, frankly, it is evolve or die for them,” said Andrew S. Lang, CPA, of LangCPA, who consults with association clients. “There are some of their members who still have substantial market value like The New York Times or the Washington Post, but the fact that they took a model which was no longer working and are evolving into new and different revenue streams is a good example for all associations.”
Lang offered two keys for organizations trying to create new and valuable revenue streams of their own.
Figure out what your members need. Offering that must-have product or relationship to your members is critical, Lang said.
“When I see organizations creating new revenue streams that work, it is always because it meets a member need,” he said. “Like the newspapers, certain associations really own their niche, whether that’s through offering and being the source of technical data, or [providing] some kind of invaluable product.”
Ask, “What are we not offering?” “It’s very easy to create a budget that reflects what you have done previously, but to identify a new and different source of revenue is tricky,” Lang said. “The way to do that is by talking to staff who are in touch with the members—not the directors of departments, but the people who are actually in contact with the general membership—and see what they’re asking for, and identify something that you’re not doing that you should be doing.”