Layoffs and mergers are becoming commonplace, but no one expected the purge that occurred last month to some of the biggest names in the New York newspaper business.
According to the Huffington Post, such newspaper veterans as Mike Lupica, Bill Hammond and Bill Madden were either laid off, or their contracts were not renewed. Around the country, newspapers such as the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News laid off editorial staff at a pace that has not been seen in a while. What does this mean for the future of the newspaper industry? It means that news publishers need to understand their business if they want to survive.
This Has Been Predicted Before
Back in 2009, NiemanLab.org published a piece by Martin Langeveld that warned newspaper publishers that they are no longer the dominant source of news for Americans. These days, instant news stories from Facebook or Twitter are starting to grab an audience that used to gladly pay for a Los Angeles Times every morning. Around 2009 is when a lot of newspapers started to merge and lay off editorial staff, and the blood-letting has not really stopped.
The Solution Is Not Simple
Some of the big names that were laid off by big newspapers in September 2015 can catch on with online publications, but the pay is not going to be the same. It may be in the best interests of writer icons like Bill Madden to start their own blogs and bring in money based on their own names. But the loss of big names to the digital world would be another blow to a newspaper industry that is struggling to figure out where it fits in a digital society.
The solution for newspaper publishers is not easy. If there is one thing local, regional and national newspapers have learned over the past few years it is that business as usual is not happening ever again. These news organizations need to adapt, or else they could find themselves being trampled under by the rumble that is social media.
Tablets Are Helping
One of the trends that was killing newspapers was the meteoric growth in popularity of the smartphone. The screen was way too small to monetize content with banners and links, but no one could figure out an alternative. The newspaper industry is now looking into saving its bacon by utilizing the meteoric rise in popularity of the tablet. A tablet screen is much bigger and offers ad revenue real estate for newspapers to utilize. If tablets continue to grow in popularity, that could represent a solution for cash-strapped publishers.
The simple answer is that the newspaper publishing industry has not developed a way to deal with the transition to digital. As advertising revenues continue to plummet, stories like the ones we saw in September 2015 are going to become more plentiful. If the newspaper industry does not figure out a way to handle the challenges from Facebook and other emerging media outlets, then there could be more large purges in the future.
What else can newspapers do to utilize technology to bring back some lost revenue?