We had a decent turnout last week for our “State of the Idaho Press-Tribune” address here at our office. About 15 to 20 people came to hear publisher Matt Davison give an update on where we are as a newspaper and as an industry. Matt and I also spent time addressing concerns and explaining why we’ve made some of the decisions we’ve made.
We talked about the TV listings, the comics, the elimination of the Monday printed product and elimination of commodities and lottery numbers.
It helped to address those concerns in the context of what Matt explained about our industry. In short, the newspaper industry has been in a state of disruption for the past 20 years, with the advent of the internet and especially now with social media.
We made no bones about declining print advertising revenue, which makes up a significant portion of our revenue. It’s one of the main reasons we eliminated the Monday print edition: Advertiser interest in our Monday print edition declined to the point that the Monday edition was losing money every time we produced, printed and delivered those papers on Monday.
In fact, most of the decisions made to change or curtail the content, from the TV listings to the comics to the commodities, came from the necessity to reduce costs. As I pointed out, if we were still doing the same things we were doing 20 years ago, with the same staff levels, the same number of pages and sections and content, I have no doubt that we’d be losing money every month and we’d be out of business by now. While I don’t agree with a lot of the cuts we’ve made, or certainly don’t like them, they’ve been necessary to keep the lights on and the paychecks coming.
Some of the changes have had to do with earlier deadlines. In order to do a better job of getting papers to every customer by 6 a.m. (and we fully recognize we haven’t been doing a great job of that for too many of our customers), we changed our deadlines to earlier in the evening, well before we get the lottery numbers. (Matt also pointed out that the Idaho Lottery will spend money on billboard advertising but not a dime on newspaper advertising any more, but we’re expected to deliver their product for free to our customers.)
It’s not all doom and gloom, as we also shared our successes in the digital world, how the reach of our website is far greater than we could possibly reach with a printed product alone, how that audience is growing and how many people we reach through social media. Translating that reach into dollars remains a challenge, but the audience is there, hungry for our local, exclusive, watchdog, enterprising journalism.
Matt and I spent about two hours addressing our readers’ concerns, and I think by the end of the evening, we addressed most of the concerns and provided a much greater understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. (No, we didn’t convince everyone to like Phoebe and Her Unicorn, but we at least now have an understanding of why we’re running it.)
I want to thank everyone who came to the open house and who care enough to take time out of their day to express their concerns and desires for the newspaper. I found it to be an encouraging practice.
So successful was it that we’ve decided to take our show on the road. Matt and I are reaching out to civic organizations in Canyon County to see if they’ll have us come speak to their group about the state of the Idaho Press-Tribune. We’re already scheduled to meet with the Treasure Valley Rotary at 6:30 a.m. (!) on Sept. 26 in Nampa.
If you’d like us to come speak with your group, shoot me an email or give me a call. The news business is something Matt and I are very passionate about, and we’d love the opportunity to talk about it with you.