Business

Newspaper Association Tries New Reporting Approach

After years of fighting a "newspapers are dead" narrative, the Newspaper Association of America changed its approach to reporting its numbers. The group's new annual report, the first since dropping its quarterly releases, came out recently. Here's how things went.

Sometimes the best way to handle a messaging problem is to change the way you share the message.

The Newspaper Association of America, a trade group for an industry that’s had it anything but easy in the digital age, is trying that approach. Here’s how it’s going so far:

A new strategy: Last year, NAA revealed that it had changed its strategy for data releases. The reason? Its quarterly releases were leading to an avalanche of bad press for the industry. The association’s president and CEO, Caroline Little, said NAA would continue to release annual numbers each spring, with the goal of showing a broader picture of the industry’s financials. The changes corresponded with other changes to NAA’s data reporting in recent years, including the addition of niche publications.

The changes in action: Now spring is here, and with it the first test of the new strategy. And the results, which include new figures not provided in previous years, show that the industry is still struggling, though with some bright spots. As a whole, the industry saw a 2.6 percent drop in total revenue, albeit with some solid gains outside of advertising. The advertising numbers—which still make up slightly less than two-thirds of the total reported revenue—were weak, especially on the print side, which experienced a 8.6 percent decline. But growth from circulation—particularly paywall-driven digital circulation, which rose by 47 percent—was solid, and new business areas show some potential for the industry, particularly events and agency-style digital marketing.

NAA said the data showed that the newspaper industry is still adapting to a tough climate.

“This trend reflects an industry evolving its business model in a significant way, taking advantage of developments in technology, consumer behavior, and advertiser interest, to grow audience and diversify its revenue stream,” the association said in a press release.

Did the change dial down the number of negative articles in the wake of the report? Not too much. They’re still fairly pessimistic.

But at least those stories aren’t hitting quarterly anymore, so that much is good news.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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