Newspapers Need Roll-up Strategy

It’s Monday morning. And as I do every morning, I pour myself a cup of Starbucks and sit down to read The Miami Herald. There was a time, 30 years ago, when the paper was thick and robust. Filled with ads, news stories, inserts, and the like. But like millions of Americans throughout the country, the daily paper has gotten noticeably thinner. With little in the way of investigative reporting. Little advertising. And for many people, decidedly fewer reasons to subscribe.

Certainly, the continued growth of the internet as a news and information source, especially among younger and  time pressed audiences, has contributed to declining readership and lower newspaper subscriptions. With it has gone the investigative reporters who used to help keep corrupt politicians in check. Also gone are the advertisements from department stores, appliance stores, jewelry stores, tire stores, banks, auto dealers, and countless others who have found more cost-effective, non-traditional media channels to build their awareness and engage customers.

Of course, as more advertisers pull out of the newspaper, as more readers cancel their subscriptions, as more of the product gets less important, newspapers must cut costs even further. That means fewer local reporters and more reliance on national press agencies. In fact, this past Wednesday in the  main section of The Miami Herald there were 11 stories from Miami Herald Wire Services, 3 stories from The Washington Post, 6 from Associated Press, 3 from McClatchy Wire Services, 1 from, and 3 from The Miami Herald.

So what’s the answer? Well one possible strategy is to “rollup” the news resources of every major newspaper in the country to act as one large news bureau. Not just AP and other wire services, but local reporters in local markets sharing their juicy investigative reporting and news stories with the top newspapers in the country.
Miami’s reporters sharing their local and Latin American stories with New York and vice versa. Los Angeles with Chicago. Houston with Atlanta. And so on and so on.  Now instead of one major newspaper in one major market having a staff of 3 investigative reporters seeking fresh news, they have 25 times that amount, making their newspapers more robust, more relevant, more interesting, and giving advertisers and readers more reason to purchase. Now add to that news content 25 times more “Lifestyle” content, 25 times more “Business” content, and 25 times more “Sports” content from 25 major newspapers sharing among themselves and you’ve now got a newspaper product that has far greater appeal to those searching the web every day, or for those who want original, fresh content from around the country.
Now, if this “rollup” strategy is successful, there’s another revenue producing idea. Offer national advertisers a discount to purchase ads in 25 newspapers instead of just a few. Give them the ability, like television networks, to place an ad in 25 markets at the same time and reach 40+ million consumers at once.
It’s time local newspapers put their stubborn independence aside. Time to discard their age-old pricing models. Time to go beyond ego and start thinking about survival. If they can get national advertisers like Proctor & Gamble, Nissan, Toyota, Coke and others to buy newspapers at a significant discount, it sure beats printing a daily paper with no advertisers, doesn’t it? And when the advertisers return, the readers will follow. And when the readers return, so will profitability!

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