It’s only my opinion

A while back, I auctioned off my opinion.

Vince Kern won that auction and paid handsomely for my opinion.

He then offered up as a gift to his readers the chance to create the subject on which I would opine.

The winner of Vince’s little drawing was Andrew DIMN. His topic: “What will be the state of the newspaper industry in 2013?”

Well, there are worse topics for me to opine about.

In some ways, newspapers will be about where they are now. The major cities will have newspapers, most communities will have newspapers. I don’t think newspaper readership is going to decline so much over the next 10 years that many newspapers will be put out of business. But in order to survive, newspapers will need to develop new revenue streams.

The Internet is going to play an increasingly major role in the health and survival of print publications. Most newspapers are now finding ways to be profitable. These programs and innovations will continue to bear fruit and online profits will become increasingly important. Right now, online revenues are a slim part of any news operations overall revenue stream. In 10 years, electronic media will generate at least 40 percent of all revenue for a well-run news organization.

Newspapers are going to expand more into direct marketing and direct retail operations to help shore up losses in advertising, particularly classified advertising.

Regional newspapers, starting out with targeted e-mail newsletters, will also expand into niche and speciality publications. This will be a growing market segment as newspapers learn that the only content they can charge premimum prices for is specialized content. Newsroom staffs will grow accordingly, but content generators (reporters and editors) will remain woefully underpaid. In other words, more jobs, but no wage growth, and probably a wage decline. This will remain necessary to maintain profit margins on the more diverse, but smaller ROI product categories.

Within 10 years, it is possible that newspapers will no longer be printed on paper, though. They may become totally customizable, printed on electronic ink or offered in a format that can easily be output on a home printer. If this happens, the trend toward specialization, specialized, niche journalism will grow.

The future of newspapers isn’t as a newspaper so much as a centralized community resource. Newspapers need to stop thinking of themselves as just a daily blitz of local news. Newspapers are the local experts, the local aggregators, the trusted source, and local news operations need to expand their businesses to become the content and community centers of their regions.

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