Editorial: On common ground
By Kris Leonhardt
MMC Senior Editor
Time and time again, people refer to the publications in the Multi Media Channels markets as “our competition.” They are always surprised when I respond with “they are not our competition.” Let me explain.
Newspapers are the backbone of journalism. Those that remain fight a common battle in the industry – the challenge of remaining viable while producing fact-based journalism on a myriad of community topics.
Many communities have watched as their town newspaper that has been a trusted voice for a century closes down, and others wither away to just a few pages.
The reasons: facts are getting less and less important as social media explodes with thousands of voices reporting in real time. Those more organized voices are putting it out there without a solid grasp on journalism ethics. Fast and factless may get the clicks desired, but it is also damaging to the small communities we serve.
Editor & Publisher recently ran a column by Lee Wolverton, executive editor of HD Media, who presented the following facts:
“Print circulation long has been in freefall but not digital audience. Total weekday circulation for all U.S. newspapers slipped to 28.6 million in 2018 from a peak of 63.3 million in 1984. Recent figures are unavailable, but in 2015, newspapers’ online audience reached a record 173 million, according to data cited by the Newspaper Association of America, the industry’s largest trade group, now known as the News Media Alliance.
“These statistics indicate newspapers are drawing more, not fewer, people to their work, even with newsroom employment cut by half since 2009.
“Online readership for newspapers has not translated into profitability. Advertising revenues industrywide tumbled from nearly $50 billion in 2005 to $14.3 billion in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. Print advertising was decimated, plunging from $47.4 billion to roughly $12.5 billion over the same period.
“While digital audiences grew, digital advertising did not keep pace, inching past $4 billion by 2018 from $2 billion in 2005. That same year, Google nearly doubled its total revenues to $6.1 billion. Another player in the digital ad market, Facebook, was in its infancy. Today, those two combined bring in more than $200 billion annually. They gobble up 77 percent of the local digital ad market compared to 58 percent nationally, according to Borrell Associates and eMarketer. The effect of this is suffocating for local news organizations. Thousands of them are scrambling for scraps. There is not enough for all to survive.”
Publishers in over a dozen states, including my employer, have filed an antitrust claim against Google and Facebook.
It’s clear to see that this is an important fight for not only our company, but also for the communities we serve.
So, in our communities, publications will stand together to fight for the common good and our role in the places we call home.