Keeping media local
What follows is a short tutorial on newspaper publishing.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a seasoned newspaper reader, and if you’re a seasoned newspaper reader you are now a member of a waning minority and it’s likely you’re familiar with the economics of newspaper publishing, which was already headed down a steep slope before the recession kicked them over a fiscal cliff.
We all know that newspaper circulation peaked years ago, and if you were born after 1965, there’s less than a 25 percent likelihood that you have a daily newspaper habit, in the sense that you buy or subscribe to a printed paper and actually read it more or less every day.
That’s bad news for newspapers in general, but much more so for metropolitan dailies, many of which have suffered circulation declines on the order of 50 percent and haven’t yet found a formula to adequately monetize their online content to cover the precipitous drop in print advertising revenue.
Classified advertising, which used to be extraordinarily profitable, has largely migrated to online venues where it is infinitely cheaper, faster and easier to produce and access.
And while newspapers are a long way from abandoning newsprint, the transition to hybrid revenue models that profitably marry online with paper advertising has been painfully slow, largely because, paradoxically, printed media remain the most successful, multi-generational method to reach the most eyes, even as digital media have drained at least two recent generations of readers away from printed content.
Digital media are obviously making rapid gains and for 12-to-25-year-olds, social media have become the preferred source for acquiring most of their information.
But one lesson that has emerged during the great media transition is that community newspapers remain viable, popular and often cherished by readers who see their hometown papers as an essential part of their community’s identity and heritage. They retain reader loyalty precisely because they are local – in and of the communities they serve.
And that’s why we believe that the April purchase of the Index-Tribune and SONOMA magazine by Sonoma Media Investments – led by Darius Anderson – was so important, both for this newspaper and for the community we serve.
And that’s also why the purchase of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, by an expanded circle of local investors under the Sonoma Media Investments umbrella, was equally important. It restores local ownership to the leading daily newspaper on the North Coast, and places it in the hands of civic-minded owners – several from the Valley – whose primary motive was not the best possible return on investment, but the best possible outcome for Sonoma County.
We applaud them and congratulate them for their commitment to local media and we are certain that, had they not stepped up, the Press Democrat and the Petaluma Argus Courier would have been bought by out-of-town interests, stripped of hard assets and reduced to publishing skeletons.
All three newspapers will continue to be published locally and separately, while enjoying the advantages of shared resources. Our readers can be confident that the Index-Tribune will remain an independent and local voice in the Valley.