What Newspapers And Their Web Sites Must Do To Survive

“The truth is sometimes cruel. But the lesson delivered by the online news consultant Vin Crosbie in the Online Journalism Review is a brilliant one.” – World Editors Forum

[Originally published on April 3, 2004, in the University of Southern California’s Online Journalism Review.]

The bad case of bronchitis suffered by Chang Bunker probably didn’t alarm his brother Eng, despite their being conjoined at the chest. Born in the kingdom of Siam in 1811, the 63-year-old brothers — who inspired the term ‘Siamese twins’ — had retired as farmers to Mount Airy, North Carolina, after decades touring the world as curiosities and freaks. They had lived a vigorous life despite their conjoined bodies, and Eng reportedly felt in good health that night.

So, Eng was quite surprised when, awaking the next morning and seeing Chang had died, he suddenly realized that his brother’s death was also his own. Despite his apparent good health, Eng died within hours of his brother because of their dependency.

Of course, newspapers online and newsprint editions aren’t Siamese twins: The newsprint editions can exist without the online editions — but online editions can’t exist without newsprint editions. Ten years into the era of publishing via the Internet, online editions still depend almost totally upon newsprint editions for content and financial support.

In 1994, new media executives at many newspapers expected things would be otherwise by now. The Internet was the fastest growing medium in history. The first commercially orientated Web browser (Netscape Navigator 1.0) had been released to widespread acclaim.

The first online banner ads had been sold. And newspapers first began publishing Internet editions. In that heady era, many new media pioneers, professors and pundits actually believed that online publishing could supersede print publishing by 2004 — or at least by then would have reversed 40 years of declines in most newspapers’ circulations and readerships.

Neither has happened.

Online publishing certainly hasn’t supplanted print publishing. Newsprint editions are still by far the most popular way by which people read newspapers. Although many daily newspapers have attracted large numbers of monthly online readers, those numbers — except in rare cases — are a fraction of the numbers of people who read the equivalent daily newsprint editions.

And according to the two major firms that measure Internet usage, Nielsen//Netratings and ComScore Media Metrix, the average online edition reader reads much less frequently and far fewer pages than the average newsprint edition reader.

The Decline of Newsprint Editions

Most printed newspapers’ circulations and readerships meanwhile continue their steady 40-year declines. More than 80 percent of American adults read a newspaper each weekday in 1964, but only 58 percent did in 1997, according to the Newspaper Association of America. In 2003, an estimated 54 percent read a newspaper each weekday. Most analysts predict that fewer than half of adults will read the paper every day by the end of this decade.

Printed editions are becoming ever less relevant and less popular in most people’s lives.

Worse, the decline in newspaper readership is accelerating. Most surveys predict that young people won’t read print editions when they grow older. At one time it was generally accepted in the newspaper business that people are more likely to read newspapers as they grow older. But research in 1985 by Philip Meyer, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that the newspaper reading habits that people develop in their 20s stick with them as they age.

Further research by the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, the National Opinion Research Center and the research firm ofClark, Martire & Bartolomeo confirmed this.

Fewer people in their 20s nowadays read newspapers. At last year’s University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism conference on younger readers, Duane Sweep, the director of research for Minnesota Opinion Research Inc. (MORI), presented data showing that young adults are increasingly less interested in newspapers. Scarborough Research found that 44.6 percent of young adults read a newspaper each weekday in 1996 but only 38.5 percent did in 2001.

MORI found that 39 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds read a newspaper daily in 1997 but only 26 percent did in 2001.

And at a Newspaper Association of America research conference in 2001, John Bartolomeo — of Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo — warned that just 9 percent of 20-to-29-year-olds will read weekday newspapers in 2010.

The effect of this trend on the newspaper industry has already been sharp. The combined weekday circulation of all U.S. dailies has dropped from 62.8 million in 1985 to 55.2 million in 2002. Just in the years since the start of the millennium, most major U.S. dailies have seen their weekday circulations drop between 1 and 4 percent.

Many believe these trends, if unchecked, herald a death knell for the printed newspaper industry within our lifetime. “By my calculations,” Meyer archly remarked, “the last daily reader will disappear in September 2043.” Most other analysts predict the demise will be sooner.

Managing decline has long been the forte of the newspaper industry. Though many publishers can boast of increasing their shareholders’ earnings during the past 40 years and a few can boast of modest increases in their newspaper’s circulation, most haven’t found a way to stem the steady loss of readership.

At a 1999 newspaper conference, International Newspaper Marketing Association Executive Director Earl J. Wilkinson gave a speech about a newspaper publisher whose “job during the next 10 years was to keep profit margins high while managing the steady decline of his newspaper’s circulation base.” That job is a common situation nowadays.

Similar or Worse Results Online

Hoping to grow readership, defend their classified advertising franchises against new media competitors and develop a new market, the newspaper industry has spent billions of dollars during the past 10 years creating and publishing online editions. In a speech at the Online News Association annual conference last year, Tribune Company President Jack Fuller said his company alone has so far spent $600 million on online editions.

Driving much of that spending is a belief that young people are now online — and so that’s where newspapers should be. However, that might be another piece of conventional wisdomproved false by research. A Belden Associates study of 8,000 online newspaper readers in five markets during 2002 found that only 9 percent of online newspaper readers are ages 18 to 24, and only 25 percent are ages 25 to 34 — results remarkably similar to newsprint edition readerships.

Although many daily newspapers have attracted large numbers of people who read an online edition at least once per month, the average online user appears to spend considerably less time reading articles than the average reader of a printed edition.

Nielsen//Netratings and ComScore Media Metrix report that the average newspaper Web site user in the United States visits only two to four times per month, spending less than 35 minutes on the paper’s Web site each month.

Nielsen//Netratings statistics in NYTimes.com’s online media kitsay that in July 2003, the average user among that site’s 8,283,000 unique monthly users visited only 5.74 times that month, and spent less than 35 minutes using the site all that month.

By comparison, a 2002 survey by the Readership Institute of the Media Management Center at Northwestern University reported that the average newspaper reader reads the paper 3.4 times per week (14.7 times per month), spending an average of 28.2 minutes per day with the paper.

The Dependency of Online Editions

The newspaper industry has spent billions on the Internet to create online editions that are read by fewer people, less frequently and less fully than print editions. These online editions haven’t helped newspapers attract younger readers, and most of them are a financial drain on the newspapers that support them.

Many newspaper companies recently reported that their online operations are profitable — meaning they have more revenues than expenses, but haven’t yet repaid their startup investments.

But many are in the black partly because they don’t pay for many of their expenses: Newspapers not only give online editions most of their content for free, they also pay many of their overhead costs.

And while a number of papers say their online classified and banner ad revenues are up, some are bolstering their online sales by forcing those who buy print classified ads to also buy online ads — whether they want them or not.

A Borrell Associates survey of 247 U.S. newspaper Web sites last year found that about 36 percent of newspaper online revenues came from “upselling” — convincing (and sometimes forcing) print ad buyers to also take out ads online.

And some newspapers include non-news site revenues in their Internet divisions’ profits. For instance, New York Times Digital totaled $16.5 million in profits during the four quarters that ended Oct. 1 last year, but that included more than $20 million in NEXIS database revenues from a New York Times Company deal — made before the existence of New York Times Digital — that has nothing to do with its Web sites.

The accounting of revenues behind newspaper’s self-reported claims of online profitability has been the subject of previous articles here in OJR and other publishing trade journals.

Remove print classified “upsells” and other financial stipends, and very few newspapers’ online editions are actually profitable solely from their own operations. Almost all depend on newspapers for content and financial support.

This continuing dependency is dangerous. Unless online or newsprint editions can reverse the overall declines in newspaper readership, then the fates of online and newsprint editions will be the same and soon and sorry.

The Three-Step Solution

I’ve worked in the newspaper industry for more than a quarter century — the last 10 years in online publishing. My family has published a daily paper in Connecticut since 1877, making me among its fifth generation in the industry. I’d like to see the newspaper industry survive into a sixth generation. But it won’t in its current direction.

That direction was set in 1609 when the world’s first newspaper began publication in the city of Strasbourg. It contained reportage, entertainment, opinions and commercial messages. Its printer, who was also its publisher, chose the stories to publish by deciding which would have the greatest generic interest.

This marketing decision was mandated by the technological limitation of his analog printing press. Once he locked the newspaper’s moveable type into position, he could publish only the same edition that day for all its readers. The generic newspaper was born.

More than any other single factor, that technological limitation of the analog printing press shaped the newspaper industry’s direction and practices. Nearly four subsequent centuries of new printing technologies have increased the speeds and image resolutions of analog presses, but that generic limitation has remained.

Each reader received the same edition, regardless of his or her individual interests. Although the contents of some geographically zoned editions might be slightly different, analog presses still limit today’s printed newspapers to be produced as generic products for all readers.

For instance, any major newspaper’s editor today will receive hundreds of local and thousands of wire and news syndicate stories. (Even the editor of a small daily newspaper receives more than a thousand stories each day from its wire service alone.) But the limitation of a major newspaper’s analog press forces the editor to choose perhaps no more than one hundred stories to publish. That means picking stories not just according to importance, but also according to greatest generic interest.

Unfortunately for the newspaper industry, readers aren’t generic. All people do share a few generic interests — such as the weather — and many might share some individual interests — such as Boston Patriots football or news of the Philippines. But each person possesses diverse individual interests — such as bonsai gardening, the films of Matt Damon, horseback riding, etc. — and is a unique mix of generic and individual interests.

The average newspaper edition, generically printed from an analog press, may satisfy a reader’s generic interests and might satisfy one or two of his or her individual interests, but chances are that no more than four or five stories out of every one hundred published will interest the average reader. Frankly, that’s a lousy satisfaction ratio.

This wasn’t a problem for the newspaper industry for more than 350 years, because readers had no other sources of daily changing information. But the invention of the transistor catalyzed an evolution in media technologies that is leaving newspapers behind. The rise of cable television in the 1960s, satellite television in the 1980s and Internet access in the 1990s has given people hundreds or thousands of sources of daily changing information besides their daily newspaper.

If there has been but one trend in media during the past 40 years, it has been people gravitating toward whatever mix of media vehicles that best satisfies each of their own unique mixes of generic and individual interests — mainly at the expense of generic media vehicles such as newspapers and traditional television networks.

Audience “fragmentation” is an incomplete way to describe this phenomenon, because that term doesn’t address the reader’s motivation. The audiences and readerships that appeared to be monolithic in 1960 are forsaking solely generic sources of content and instead satisfying themselves by mixing newer media vehicles that better match their own uniquely individual mixes of generic and individual interests.

That’s ironic, because their newspaper today receives a greater cornucopia of stories than any other medium and has the only distribution system capable of delivering a complete package of content at once to everyone in the community. But its analog press limits the newspaper to producing the same generic edition for everyone. The stories that are relevant to each individual reader’s unique interests exist, but aren’t being delivered to him by a generic newspaper.

That antiquated limitation must be shattered if the newspaper industry is to survive.

Ten years ago, many newspaper industry futurists hoped that publishing online might save the industry. But they poured their energies into multimedia and failed to use the technology to do the one thing that could bring readers back: create papers tailored to readers’ individual interests. The industry is instead using new media to do the same things that newspapers did 40 — or 350 — years ago. The business models are based on the antiquated limitation of analog presses simply being shoveled online, as if HTML spells salvation.

Many media industry experts believe that because online technologies allow combinations of text, audio, animation and video, converging the operations of newspapers with television stations will keep usage of both those generic media from declining. However, converging two declining generic media does not an ascending generic medium make. Just adding multimedia capabilities overlooks the core reason why those generic media are declining.

The generic newspaper edition’s lack of individual relevancy is also why few people will pay much for it published online. Nor will forcing them to register to see that content online do anything more than further diminish readership. (Nor does freely distributing printed “Metro” editions for everyone or shorter-storied ‘RedEye’ editions for young readers address the lack of relevancy of generic newspaper editions.)

Some experts also believe that local newspapers that have lost readership for international and national news during the past 40 years should only deliver local news. Likewise, some believe that if most readership for online editions comes from workplaces, then those online newspapers should concentrate on workday readerships.

But all those experts are capitulating to previous mistakes and inadvertently reinforcing those problems. Local newspapers need not lose readership for international and national news nor online newspapers lose home readership if content is delivered on the basis of individual relevancy, not generic printing.

The real solution for the industry’s future doesn’t revolve around simply adding multimedia to generic editions. It instead will require that the newspaper industry:

  1. Use new technologies to match the newspaper’s existing cornucopia of content to satisfy each individual reader’s unique mix of interests
  2. Understand that neither newsprint nor the Web nor digital editions nor wireless is the answer, but that the true convergence of all those into a single unitary product not only is necessary but likely within 10 years
  3. Focus less on the industry’s ability to produce content and more on its unique service of delivering to people a complete package of content — a change that requires newsrooms and corporations to go beyond traditional definitions of “news” or “syndicated sources.”

Don’t Stick Readers Into a Soviet Department Store

The first part of this solution is to realize that continued mass production of generic products is as dead or dying a concept as powering presses by steam. The newspaper industry will die if it doesn’t begin more accurately matching its wealth of content to each reader.

Imagine a department store whose shelves have what I want to buy, but which sells only whatever is displayed in its store window for everyone. It’s a classic business example of mismatching and wasting desired inventory. But this faulty business model didn’t die behind the Iron Curtain. Newspapers use it every day.

For example, I’m a Formula One racing, soccer and cycling fan. I subscribe to The New York Times, but it rarely publishes any stories about those sports, despite there being important stories about those sports every day.

I know the Times receives dozens of important stories about those sports daily, because I’m the former Reuters executive who sold the Times that feed. But the Times’ use of analog presses forces it to publish sports stories that appeal to the largest generic interests in America. So, each morning the Times newsprint edition delivers to me stories about other sports that I don’t want to read.

If just one of the thousands of local, wire, and news syndicate stories that a newspaper newsroom receives each day is of interest to even one reader and the technologies exist to distribute that story to that reader, then it should be the editor’s responsibility to satisfy that reader.

This should be an imperative task for the newspaper industry. Newspapers have the content inventory, and the distribution technologies exist. Editors should be using the technologies to match stories to every reader’s unique mix of generic and individual interests — the mass customization of each day’s edition. It makes no sense to transplant the generic publishing limitation of the analog press into 21st century media.

Discussions of mass customizing newspapers generally send traditional editors into paroxysms of polar thinking. They think it will let each reader opt out of receiving stories that the editors think all readers should know, that it would create a society of insular and uninformed readers, and that all choices about content must be controlled by either the editor or the readers. Those are all false worries.

No newspaper publisher needs to hand total customization to the readers. Instead, he or she can let their editor and readers share that control. The editor can ensure that each reader receives the prime stories and bulletins that the editor thinks all readers need to see. Meanwhile, each reader can customize their edition with whatever other subjects they want to receive from the newspaper’s cornucopia of content.

No one likes to be caught unaware, and that human tendency provides a natural behavioral check against insularity. Few readers will use customization to opt-out — or else they wouldn’t be using a newspaper.

Like other executives in formerly Industrial Era businesses that must adopt mass customization, newspaper editors will find many of their traditional practices must change. When there are as many editions daily as there are readers, no one editor or editorial team will have time to examine, edit and approve each story seen by each reader. Instead, the editors must examine, edit and approve the flow of stories rather than on just one generic edition of stories. That’s not an insurmountable editorial problem: Stories from wire services and syndicates have already been edited.

A newspaper that can match stories — and specific advertising — to each individual reader’s needs and interests is much more valuable to its readers and advertisers.

All this can now be done online, where the generic limitation of the analog press doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, almost all newspapers’ Web sites publish only the stories that those presses print. Customizing content should be an imperative task for newspaper new media staffs, but the customization isn’t even on the radar at most publications.

Get Your Individually Customized Print Edition

But it is certainly on the press manufacturers’ agenda. Ask Gerd Finkbeiner, who will tell you that customized newsprint editions aren’t a question of “if” — but of “when.”

Finkbeiner is chairman of MAN Roland, the world’s largest manufacturer of newspaper presses — one of every three worldwide. While guiding international newspaper executives through the mammoth analog press facility of O Globo in Rio de Janeiro during the last months of the 20th century, he said, “This may be one of the last giant newspaper presses you’ll ever see built. We believe that within 10 years most newspapers instead will be ordering digital presses.”

These digital presses, Finkbeiner remarked, will eventually be connected not just to databases of delivery addresses but also to databases of content choices and layout templates and be capable of printing an individualized edition for each and every subscriber. Current versions can print 10,000 to 20,000 copies per hour, speeds acceptable to the press crews of half the daily newspapers in America that have small circulations.

Digital presses also are much smaller than analog presses, requiring smaller infrastructures. Individual units can even be remotely located and operated in neighboring towns or distant cities, eliminating long circulation routes from a central analog press plant.

Although digital presses cost more than analog presses, Finkbeiner expects the costs will drop significantly by 2010, prompting newspapers to switch to digital printing with individual customization of printed editions to follow. The newspapers that mass customize their online editions will then be able to apply those customizations to print.

Most computer-equipped consumers today already have desktop presses called inkjet printers. Will they ever begin printing each day’s newspapers so that publishers will no longer need to print and distribute? Not until newspapers start producing a “homeprint” edition that fits consumer paper sizes.

Likewise, electronic paper technologies are coming to fruition. Last month, Philips Electronics demonstrated e-paper that can be rolled up into a cylinder the size of a pen, and announced plans to begin manufacturing 1 million of these in 2006. These will allow digital — or Web — editions to be seen on lightweight, flexible and portable displays that have most of all the advantages of newsprint plus multimedia.

If the newspaper industry wants consumers to read the paper on various devices, the industry must produce versions of the newspaper that fit the paper and screen sizes that consumers use.

True Convergence

Making it easier for people to view the paper in various sizes is the beginning of true convergence within the newspaper industry — not the convergence of newspapers and TV, but the convergence of Web, printed and digital online editions. This is the second part of the solution.

Start with digital editions, which are online facsimiles of their entire generic newsprint edition. Many newspapers now offer these. Consumers can download intact newspaper editions featuring most of the graphical layout capabilities of newsprint, and the publisher can count these as print circulation.

But most newspapers that produce digital editions create them simply as byproducts of their pre-press operations, often without any involvement by online edition staffs, and in layout formats meant for paper, not display screens.

Worse, most of these digital editions aren’t enhanced with the embedded multimedia capabilities — hyperlinks, audio and video, etc. — of Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Reader software. Nor do these Digital Editions use the Tagged File Format capabilities to flow layouts to fit whatever sized or shaped display screen a consumer uses.

Not many consumers will download the large files of these digital editions just to get a generic edition that’s difficult to read onscreen or when printed out. For example, The New York Times has sold only some 4,000 Digital Edition subscriptions during the past three years, approximately one-third of a percent of that newspaper’s circulation. Most newspapers have sold far fewer.

Customized digital editions that use the full capabilities of the software would be more popular.

Some other vendors of digital edition technologies, such as Newsstand.com, have realized that automatic delivery of editions generates more frequent readership and circulation than having customers visit the publisher’s site to retrieve editions.

Circulation executives learned that long ago about print editions. In North America, for instance, less than 16 percent of the average newspaper’s print circulation is generated from retrieval mechanisms such as at newsstands or vending boxes.

Unfortunately, that’s a lesson most newspapers’ Web departments haven’t yet learned. When the average user of the Web site visits only two to four times per month, he or she is visiting only 16 percent of a month’s days. Human behavior toward retrieval tends to be constant, no matter towards print or online.

Only about 100 of the more than 1,400 daily newspaper Web sites in North America automatically deliver content to consumers daily by e-mail or pushed Digital Editions. The rest await consumers’ visits to retrieve content.

Whatever the future, newspapers must find more effective ways to deliver online because just publishing sites that await visitors isn’t enough.

Whether delivered or retrieved, the most popular means of accessing newspapers online most likely will be on mobile devices — rather than desktop or laptop computers — by the end of this decade. People roam. Today there are more mobile phones (1.2 billion) than wired phones (1.1 billion) or desktop and laptop personal computers (fewer than 600 million) in use worldwide, according to the Gartner Group.

And most mobile phones manufactured since about 1999 have some form of Internet access. Many new mobile phones feature MultiMedia Messaging or full Web access. Moreover, other devices, such as PDAs or automobiles, are being equipped for wireless Internet access.

None of these mobile devices have screens that today’s horizontal 800 x 600-pixel newspaper Web sites are designed for. We’ve entered a third wave of online publishing in which today’s newspaper Web sites are going to be as misaimed and outdated by the end of this decade as the old Prodigy online service’s pages already were 10 years ago.

The types of sites being produced today — horizontally orientated, limited to the inferior graphical capabilities of HTML, able to download only a single scrollable page (itself often containing less than a story) at a time — won’t be appropriate in an era when the deskbound wired Web isn’t the pervasive online medium.

For its survival, the newspaper industry must produce and automatically deliver, wired and wirelessly, entirely intact and individually customized editions that are smaller, vertically formatted, and that combine the graphical layout capabilities of print and the interactive multimedia capabilities of the Web, and flow to fit any display screen or printed paper size.

That sounds like a tall order, but the required technologies now exist.

De-package the Corporate Product; Aggregate the Corporate Service

Finally, the third part of the solution is to realize that a newspaper isn’t a corporately branded package, but a corporately branded service. Newspaper companies need to begin delivering to their readers content from beyond traditional brands and news beyond the traditional 1960s meaning of “news.”

Mistaking a newspaper as a package is easy. The core connection between a newspaper and its readers isn’t its newsprint, its local or national news, editorials, columnists, opinions, cartoons or its classified or display ads. No, a newspaper’s routine — automatic and intact daily delivery of everything that the reader should want to know on that day — is the core connection.

This complete package of information is what distinguishes newspapers from other media. Magazines can’t do it daily. Radio can’t do it with texts and pictures. TV can’t do it with texts. And no broadcast medium can deliver all that content all at once.

Most newspaper companies vertically integrate their editorial resources to reduce expenses when producing that package of information. For instances, a Gannett newspaper will contain stories from its own local reporters and from the Gannett News Service; a Tribune newspaper will contain stories from its own local reporters and from Tribune Media Services. Whenever possible, major newspaper companies prefer to deliver a package of their own branded content — plus content from the Associated Press.

However, no one media company — even aided by the AP — has the editorial resources to provide the world’s diversity of content to its readers, an important facet of why generic newspapers lack relevance to most individuals.

A reader reads a copy of a newspaper to be informed about everything that should interest him that day, not for the privilege of reading just one company’s branded content. Newspapers with local monopolies might believe they own their subscribers, but the long-term decline in newspaper readerships plus the annual 20 percent to 60 percent subscriber churn rates at most newspapers clearly belie that belief.

If newspapers are to become more relevant to each individual reader in an era when those readers have access to hundreds or thousands of content providers, then the service that newspaper companies deliver greatly needs to increase the number of its content sources.

That means opening the walls of those newspaper companies’ vertical integration and inter-syndicating their and other companies’ content right down to the story level. In recent reports, such as News Destination Sites Are Dead EndsRe-Engineering The News Business, and Content Hypersyndication, Forrester Research has been coming to the same conclusion about newspapers.

This also means that newspaper companies should even acquire distribution rights to stories and information from reputable sources that might not traditionally have been parts of newspapers — such as trade journals, newsletters, magazines, blogs, other Web sites, etc. The communications, indexing (notably XML), and billing technologies already exist to do this.

Jim Chisholm, senior strategy advisor to the World Association of Newspapers, told me that editors must understand that consumers’ definition of news is changing. “The issue is what they are consuming. It is not necessarily in the form that we think of as content. We need to think a lot harder about what constitutes news.

“News needs to be more attuned to readers’ personal priorities and this means journalists moving from ‘wide audience, low relevance’ stories (i.e., small earthquake reported in Peru) to ‘low audience, high relevance’ stories. A news event that most journalists might regard as trivia may be life-changing for 10 people. We must learn to serve the groups of 10, or even media markets of one.” (In this month’sNewspapers & Technology, Chisholm expands on the concept of a new type of news.)

A newspaper’s service is to aggregate and deliver all the news that a reader should be interested in that day. This service can be branded, but it shouldn’t be a package of only one brand’s content, and that content should possibly be from all sources, including nontraditional newspaper ones.

This service saves readers from having to search hundreds or thousands or millions of the world’s content sources for that information — a vital service in an era of data smog. It’s a service for which newspaper companies should be able to generate great revenues and secure larger readership in the 21st century.

This new editorial business model isn’t conceptually that much different from a satellite television company that delivers hundreds or thousands of channels — including its own — to consumers whose remote controls feature “favorite channel” buttons.

The three parts of this editorial solution — the mass customization of editions relevant to each reader’s interests, delivery of customized digital editions readable or printable from any device, and opening newspaper company’s walls of branded vertical integration to syndication of all brands’ and types of content — are necessary for the newspaper industry to survive.

The investments and decisions necessary to upgrade their industry won’t be palatable for many newspaper companies. Private newspaper proprietors such as William Randolph Hearst, James Cox, Frank Gannett, Herman Ridder, Charles Landon Knight, Edward W. Scripps, Charles Dow and Edward Jones once had the vision and determination to lead their industry into the future, to take such radical steps, to innovate and to lead their industry into the future.

But the executives who a half-century or more later now run the publicly held corporations in those men’s names might instead be more concerned with quarterly and annual profits than the long-term survival of the industry as they continue to manage its decline.

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