What better way to talk about the demise of newspapers than to quote Mark Twain? When an enterprising reporter tracked him down in London on rumors of ill health, he set the record straight: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
Just so with newspapers. We've been hearing news of the industry's grim fate for a number of years. A study by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism in 2012 - "The Search for a New Business Model" - reported that newspapers lost $7 in print revenue for every $1 gained in digital. By the end of last year the numbers had sunk to $16 in print losses for $1 dollar in improvements to digital advertising. To combat steep declines in revenue, more than a third of U.S. news organizations have implemented paywalls, according to News & Tech. While paywalls can increase subscriber revenue, they can also reduce the reading audience by as much as 40 percent.
Gloomy, yes. But I don't think those stats announce the death of newspapers. The truth of the matter is that many newspapers and other media companies are in a state of evolution, not extinction. If there is a death, it's in the extreme economic disruption of the historic business model. I assume no one knows that better than Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. His acquisition of the iconic Washington Post this past month for $250 million will undoubtedly turn out to be a bellwether. In an interview with the German paper, Berliner Zeitung, Bezos had earlier predicted there would be no print newspapers in 20 years. Many readers, however, still currently prefer a print edition, he acknowledged.
Some newspapers are already making huge strides in straddling the print, online, social, and mobile worlds. Frankly, one of the big differentiators is something that seems far afield from a working reporter's life, and that's data! Technology offers not just new ways to deliver content digitally, but also makes it possible to track readers and viewers in real time, analyze their preferences, target advertising, and deliver more relevant information quite literally from moment to moment. Here's how publishers can use data to improve their businesses:
Publishers in the years ahead will embrace many innovations. But one thing is clear. Media companies cannot afford to ignore the volume, velocity, and variety of data generated in their interactions with the reading and viewing public. The data gives publishers the power to better understand their customers, create more relevant and timely content, monetize those editorial products more efficiently, and deliver them at the right time using the best channels. These are elements that are fundamental to survival - and success - in any industry.
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Pelin Thorogood, a new media marketing and analytics expert, is CEO and a board director of Anametrix, the first cloud-based, real-time marketing analytics platform. Her career as a high-tech innovator includes leading the go-to-market strategy as CMO of WebSideStory (acquired by Omniture/Adobe), extending Peregrine Systems' enterprise software business (acquired by HP) into web-based applications, and in the mid-1990s launching one of the very first mobile B2B applications. She was named one of the "20 Women to Watch" in sales lead management in 2011 and 2012. Pelin holds a B.S. in Operations Research, Masters in Engineering. and MBA degrees, all from Cornell University, where she also serves as Executive-in-Residence for the Johnson Graduate School of Management. Follow Pelin on Twitter @PelinT.