Monday, April 07, 2008

What's the future of your paper?

Tell some civilian that you work at the newspaper, and odds are good that you'll hear something like, "Oh, I'm sorry. Won't you be going out of business soon?"

Combine the very real changes and challenges we face with the steady drumbeat of misinterpretation and pessimism and the result is an atmosphere of pervasive gloom. Yes, some newspaper companies may fail, some because they ended up in financially untenable situations, and others because they wouldn't embrace the changing needs and demands of the audience.

But others will survive and prosper in new configurations that serve their public mission in new ways. McClatchy is one of them, and if folks had my vantage point they'd see how much radical change and reorientation has already taken place. Our operating costs are dropping in the high single digits every year (boy, is that fun) and our online audience was up 25% last year. (It's growing faster so far this year, too). While there have been challenges, we're rapidly getting better at selling and profiting from that online audience, and the partnership with Yahoo that rolls out later this year will deliver far more sophisticated tools and lots more inventory to sell.

Execs at the News & Observer decided to take the question of their future head-on in the pages of the paper recently, and produced an illuminating section discussing their perspectives and helping readers understand what they were up and where they're trying to go.

Click on these images to get a closer look at the story they told. And I'm sure John Drescher & Co. there would be happy to follow-up with colleagues who are interested.

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