I am often asked how we are able to grow the readership of our print publications while paid subscription newspapers continue to suffer from declines in circulation. The answer is two-fold.

First, it starts with our business model, which is based on providing our print and digital publications for free to our readers. Unfortunately, many paid circulation publishers became greedy over the years, increasing the costs for consumers to subscribe while providing less content (more on this in point No. 2). Charging more and giving less is not a good recipe for any business. This became more complicated when paid subscription newspapers decided to give away content on their websites for free. I challenge you to name any other industry that once had up to two-thirds of households buying their product and then acted dumbfounded when fewer people continued to purchase it because they could get it for free from the same company elsewhere. That decision by newspaper execs continues to be mind-boggling. For us, the digital option was simple. We give our publications away for free in print… and online. Our digital efforts do not exist to replace our print publications (and alienate our most loyal readers) but rather to enhance our print publications. That may change over time, but, for now, our print readership far exceeds our digital readership. Meanwhile, we are focused on providing as much news and information as we can through every available medium — for free.

Second, content truly is king. Michael Gartner shared a story with me a few years ago from Abe Rosenfeld, who was the executive editor of The New York Times. Rosenfeld’s father ran a lunch counter in Manhattan. He said there were lunch counters everywhere at the time, and business was awful for all of them. To help their bottom line, some of them started adding water to the soup. Their customers soon realized this and went elsewhere. Slowly, those lunch counters went out of business. Rosenfeld said his father took a different approach and added more tomatoes to his soup, and his customer base grew. That was Rosenfeld’s — and is Gartner’s — advice to improve newspapers. Newspapers and magazines today need more tomatoes — more content. And that content should be of the local variety, not filler pieces from other publications. At Big Green Umbrella Media, we spend substantial time and money on producing local content for our publications. Although we certainly don’t have it all figured out, we are convinced that a focus on local content is crucial to any success we may have.

So despite the fact that most paid newspapers and magazines are dying, all print is clearly not dead. We are proving it. Others are, too. There is also no doubt that in the media world — both in print and online — content is king. We are determined to prove that as well — one tomato at a time.  

Have a fantastic Friday, and thanks for reading.

Shane Goodman
Editor and Publisher
Times Vedette digital editions