There are basically only two ways to improve profit margins in any business. One is to increase prices, and the other is to decrease costs. In the current economic environment, raising prices is challenging, as even major manufacturers have discovered.
Therefore there needs to be a continual focus on reducing costs. With this in mind, here is a look at decreasing the costs of the newsroom in three steps.
Reduce Printing FrequencyEven in the heyday of paper printing, physical newspapers produced different levels of content on different days of the week.Typically Monday and Tuesday editions had a relatively low amount of content and, as the days went by, the amount of content went up until you reached Sunday, when newspapers were notoriously thick to the point where they had to be taken apart to fit through letterboxes.
While many newspaper publishers are embracing the shift to digital, which both relieves them of printing costs and vastly reduces the logistics of delivery, the fact is that, at the current time, there is still a core of readers who want their content in paper form and will need to be tempted online.
One of the ways to achieve this, is to move towards an intermediate model where paper content is produced less frequently, possibly with a greater amount of content in each issue. This should support more advertising per issue, which helps with decreasing the costs of the newsroom. At the same time, give these people a nudge online by keeping the online content updated in between printed editions and potentially encouraging reader participation through comments, forums and so on.
Remember Geography, even in the Digital World
One feature of print publications, which can get slightly lost in the digital world, is that they tend to have a fairly clear understanding of their geographic reach. Depending on the publication, that could mean anything from a small community to a larger region to an entire country, but printed publications did tend to know their limits, geographically speaking.
The move to digital has brought with it the temptation to ignore geographical boundaries in an attempt to expand the reach of a publication. While this is understandable, it actually goes against the principle of decreasing the costs of the newsroom.
Basically, if you really want to make a success of expanding into new territories, then in all probability you are going to need to produce content which is relevant to those territories. Unless you can produce something which is new, unique and engaging, the chances are that you are going to be competing against an established publication and will have to find a way to lure readers away from them.
If you do come up with a completely new offering and think it has a chance to succeed in another market, then you may well be best served creating a new publication with a new brand, to differentiate it from existing offerings, rather than trying to link it to a publication for a different geographic market.
Keep Focused on your Target Market
Similar comments apply to expanding your target market. Successful publications know their readership and deliver the content that readership wants. Expanding into other demographic markets means producing the sort of content which the new target demographic wants to read.
This means that either you have to shift the focus of your content (and risk alienating your current readership and possibly advertisers as well) or you have to produce extra content to cover both bases and accept the extra expense of content production (even if publishing digitally removes all the costs associated with physical production) in the hope that you will engage with a new set of readers.
If you believe that your current readership is unlikely to be sustainable over the long term, then you might well find it a better option to create an entirely new publication for another market and keep the two brands distinct.
If, however, you do believe that your current readership has a long-term future, then a more appropriate strategy is to make your assets work harder for you by looking for ways to add extra value to your offering and thereby either be able to justify a higher price (or upsell specific add-on products) or to attract more advertisers (potentially at higher rates).
One of the advantages of keeping focused on a specific geographical area and/or niche is that it can make it massively easier to work in collaboration with non-competing businesses working in the same market. This creates scope for producing genuinely valuable “reader offers”, which benefit both businesses and the readership at the same time.
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