So really…Is Traditional Media Dead?

I’m going to look at this subject from a marketers perspective.  And a consumers viewpoint. And focus on just one piece of the traditional media, daily newspapers.

Lots of businesses rely on traditional media and advertising options that have been the mainstay for decades.  Radio, television, yellow pages, magazines and newspapers were the big ones.

Every one would get a phone book that included a yellow page section that businesses would pay for ad space so you and I as consumers could find a plumber or lawyer or whatever we needed that we didn’t already have.

The internet replaced the relevancy of the printed yellow pages as cellphones replaced land lines and printed phone books that were updated months in advance and published once a year became obsolete.

(I’m still listed in the printed phone book white pages with an address that I moved from 11 years ago and a phone number I disconnected 3 years ago.)

But let’s focus a second on the other printed form of advertising that is updated nearly every day.

Your local newspaper.  A decade ago I predicted the death of their business model at the same time our local papers built a new multi-million dollar press and building.  It was a stupid idea, but it didn’t kill the paper.

Last month a friend of mine who comes into the Firefly Coffee Shop everyday to do crosswords and drink a Venti cup of coffee told me he is in the Sunday newspaper.  Jim is his name and Jim is in his 70’s. He told me that his picture was in the business section.

While Jim was looking around the coffee shop for a copy of the Journal-Gazette Business section to show me the picture of him, I sat at my laptop and found it and the story.


Jim was surprised that I could find nearly any story from the printed copy of the newspaper on their website. Here’s the irony:

Jim did not read the story in the newspaper and so he did not know the context of the picture except the picture was of two women and he was in the background.  The headline read: Youth also flavor local java scene and it was about the increase of millennials visiting coffee shops.

As both technology changes and generations age, there is a shift in the way the public consumes media and gathers information.  Many newspapers allow you to read a limited number of articles online free but the goal is to have you pay with an online subscription.

The newspaper business model is broken and attempts to fix it appear futile. The company I work for, Federated Media sold off the one newspaper they owned this year because it was not profitable. At least compared to the other media assets under the company umbrella.  Without my personally speaking to the Dillie family that owns our company, I still know that the newspaper was a prized piece of the portfolio of media interests, and the sale of the paper was strictly a business move that they wished they didn’t have to do.

Mediapost shared some stats about newspaper revenues that include:

Gannett reported an 11.7% year-on-year drop in its third-quarter ad revenues and a 6.4% drop in its circulation revenues

Print advertising revenues for the three months that ended on September 25 fell 14.8%, led by a 35.1% reduction in national print advertising and a 19.1% reduction in preprints.

On the positive side, they shared this:

Digital advertising revenues were up 6.2%, compared to the quarter a year ago, Digital-only subscriptions grew 45%.


Gannett plans to lay off roughly 350 employees, or around 2% of its total workforce of about 18,700.

Gannett, which is the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, with a portfolio that includes USA Today and more than 100 local publications

Layoff announcements like this are not new. They are continuous. These are not like the old layoff announcements companies used to make about temporary layoffs.  These jobs are not coming back.

The online version of newspapers is not capable of supporting financially the printed version.

The short story on these and other numbers is that the newspaper business is still trying to stay alive but when they finally do find a formula that makes it possible to survive financially, it will be a tiny fragment of what we have now in 2016.  And what we have now in 2016 is a fragment of what the newspaper industry was 20 years ago.

As a consumer, I don’t need the printed paper to stay informed.  If the online version goes away, we’ll have other online news sources that don’t have the burden of overhead.

As an advertiser, the number of print readers I reach by ads in the newspaper will continue to grow old and die.  I went to a funeral of a 95 year old this fall so we may be living longer, but like my friend Jim who is in his 70’s and his picture is in the paper, it doesn’t matter anymore.

Thoughts?  Questions? Comments?  Let’s talk.