Above, a little taste of what’s been going at the Arkansas Business Publishing Group office in Little Rock. We’re taking over some existing, empty space in our building, which means lots changes, construction, painting and noise, lots and lots of noise.
After having read this Web site for months now and putting up with its sporadic updates and dubious content, you deserve something in return, don’t you? Of course you do!
That’s what we’re giving away some free music. It’s our first contribution to a mixtape series some of the fine folks at Arkansas Business Publishing Group are doing. “Thank God It’s #Mixday” is being curated at ABPG by Ryan Byrd, and you can download my compilation here and Ryan’s compilation here. Full track listing for mine is after the jump.
Other companies, like CJRW, do this as well. And we hope to make a new Friday tradition here at ABPG.
So go download some decent music, sit back and relax. It’s a small token of thanks to those who’ve so far managed to endure this blog.
Arkansas Business is now on Facebook. So if you’d like to be a fan, search for “Arkansas Business” on Facebook or click or go directly to the Arkansas Business on Facebook page. We’ll be sharing news headlines and, soon, hosting discussions and seeking more interaction from readers.
You can also find us on Twitter, @ArkBusiness. And our Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 alumni group on LinkedIn continues to grow, so if you’re a past Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honoree, click here to join.
Meanwhile, while you’re on Facebook, check out the Pages for our other Arkansas Business Publishing Group magazines, newspapers and Web sites:
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, its northwest Arkansas competitor, The Morning News, is cutting back on home delivery of its newspaper in Carroll County, certain areas of Washington County and a county in Missouri. Subscribers who no longer receive the newspaper in those areas will be encouraged to have it sent through the mail or view a special online edition.
The Stephens Media Group-owned newspaper blames economic conditions for the cutbacks.
The Morning News’ online edition, or “e-edition” as it’s called on its Web site, is similar to reading a PDF of the newspaper, with all articles, headlines, photos — and advertising — appearing exactly as it does in the physical newspaper. The Democrat-Gazette has an electronic edition of its newspaper online, and others have experimented with e-editions, including Arkansas Business Publishing Group, which has published newspapers and some magazines and special editions in the format.
In this week’s Arkansas Business print edition, Mark Hengel files a report on the state of newspapers in Arkansas and how everyone from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the Batesville Daily Guard are using the Internet to engage audiences, make money on advertising and, of course, save the industry.
Hengel talks to Tom Larimer, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, about the challenges newspapers in Arkansas are facing. And he Jeff Hankins (my boss and president of Arkansas Business Publishing Group, a nice publishing company) on the record about ArkansasBusiness.com, which we launched waaay back in December 2000.
(Lucky for me, it’s making money.)
ArkansasBusiness.com embraced the philosophy of free content when it launched eight years ago, and Hankins said the Web site and the free e-newsletters it pushes to anyone who registers do better than break even.
“Our Web site has been profitable for several years, with revenue up 26 percent this year,” he said.
Did he mention free content? Then you know what’s next: Hengel talks to Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman. In addition to admitting that his company might have been “a little late to the game” entering the niche publishing business with its Sync and Arkansas Life publications, Hussman talks about his newspaper business plan, which (in)famously includes locked down online content:
It’s not that Hussman hates the Internet; he just hasn’t found a model for monetizing the medium as effectively as a print product, he said.
An advertiser wanting space in a Wehco paper might pay between $20 and $40 per 1,000 copies, depending on the ad, Hussman said. A comparable banner or pop-up ad on the Internet generates less than $1 per 1,000 page views, Hussman said.
“The problem is not traffic. You get millions of people who go to look at newspaper Web sites every day,” Hussman said. “The problem is the fact that you can’t get $1 a thousand for it because there are millions of people out there selling that advertising. So there’s an oversupply of sellers, which drives down the price, and it’s not effective, so people don’t want to pay for it.”
So why is Internet advertising not effective? Hengel also talks to Aristotle President Elizabeth Bowles, who says newspapers still haven’t grasped the right advertising model. The key? Targeted (niche?) audiences.
Internet advertising works best when an advertiser pays per lead or sale generated by an ad, Bowles said. Instead, newspaper Web sites have tried to use the same advertising model developed by print editions, which stresses display advertisements. Print publications provide advertisers with an audience of a certain size, of which a percentage is likely to view an ad.
“To some extent, I think newspapers are injured by the breadth of readership they have,” Bowles said. “And in order to make sure my online dollars are being spent as effectively as possible, I want to target my market.”
The key is to connect the Internet user with the content they desire, and connect advertisers with the consumers with the greatest interest in a product.
You can see the complete story (for free, as always, on ArkansasBusiness.com) here.
Hengel talks to former Arkie Jim Hopkins, a one-time commenter to this blog who’s better known as the man behind the Gannett Blog. Unfortunately, Jim’s having some advertising problems, too. More here.
Arkansas Business media columnist Mark Hengel has a little more on last week’s word that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, feeling the same pinch newspapers across the country are feeling, had stopped hiring new employees and put a freeze on salaries.
He also notes the cost-cutting steps that Gannett took last week, laying off 1,000 employees from the newspaper side, and contrasts them with what the Democrat-Gazette has done so far.
Also: Jeff Hankins, Arkansas Business Publishing Group’s president and publisher (and my boss), takes issue with the Democrat-Gazette’s assertion that advertising in all media is down, and counts the ways our niche publishing company is seeing year-over-year revenue increases among its print publications and Web sites.
Hengel also checks in with Alan Leveritt, publisher of the Arkansas Times, to see about the health of Leveritt’s AutoBuyer weekly magazine. How’s AutoBuyer doing as auto retailers have drastically cut back advertising? Leveritt says its having a record year.
So how has the publication that only prints cars ads cashed in while newspapers have been hard hit?
“The only reason people are going to pick up Auto Buyer is because they want to buy a car,” Leveritt said.
Auto Buyer offers full-page ads in the publication for less than $600, Leveritt said, and he hypothesized that car dealerships advertise with the mag because it offers the targeted market dealers are seeking.
“There’s very little waste,” Leveritt said.
The biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press came out yesterday. In short, bad news for newspapers, but good news for online news, with modest growth in the audience there:
This year for the first time in roughly 15 years of asking the question, fewer than half of all Americans report reading a daily newspaper on a regular basis. Only 46% say they read the paper regularly – this number is down from 52% in 2006 and was as high as 71% in 1992. In a similar vein, fewer now report having read a newspaper ‘yesterday,’ a more reliable measure of newspaper readership. Only 34% say they read a newspaper yesterday, down from 40% in 2006.
The falloff in readership over the past two years has occurred across the board – men and women, whites and blacks, college graduates and those who never attended college are all reading the newspaper at lower rates than in 2006. Age continues to be strongly correlated with newspaper readership…. Currently, only 15% of those younger than 25 report having read a newspaper yesterday. Among those ages 25 to 34, 24% read a newspaper yesterday. This compares with roughly half (46%) of those 50 and older.
A word about that last graf: That part about folks under 25 barely reading newspapers? That completely tracks with what we’ve seen with our summer interns at Arkansas Business Publishing Group. Think about that for a second. ABPG is a publishing company. And these kids aren’t reading newspapers. What are they reading? Magazines and the Internet.
On online readership:
The audience for online newspapers has grown modestly since 2006. In the current survey, 13% say they read the web version of a newspaper yesterday, or both the print and online versions, up from 9% two years ago. Yet that increase has not made up for the steep loss in print readership (from 34% to 25%).
Still, online newspapers are gaining readers, especially among people ages 25 to 34. Among people in this age group who read a newspaper yesterday, fully 16% report having read the paper online; slightly fewer (12%) say they read the paper version.
The full version of the study is available here, and you can read Editor & Publisher’s summary here. Meanwhile, after the jump, we’ll leave you with another little nugget from the survey, on TV news programs, as noted by E&P.
Arkansas Business media reporter Mark Hengel talks to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette President Paul Smith about the salary freeze, the subscription increase and more. Smith says the newspaper industry will improve when the economy does. Also: Hengel talks to American Journalism Review writer John Morton, who assesses the Democrat-Gazette’s move.
Arkansas isn’t immune to the economic difficulties the country’s major metro daily newspapers are facing, after all. Max Brantley’s Arkansas Times blog today reports what the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is doing to deal with advertising revenue declines and increased costs for newsprint and fuel: a hiring and salary freeze.
Max has the memo from Democrat-Gazette president Paul Smith:
We have 1,316 employees. While many newspaper companies have had several rounds of layoffs during the past several years, we have resisted doing this and we hope we can continue to do so, but we must keep our payroll costs from going higher. In an attempt to do this, we are eliminating salary increases for the remainder of this year. We will also try to reduce costs through attrition so we will temporarily not replace departing employees unless absolutely necessary. These polices will apply to all employees in all departments throughout the newspaper. We will evaluate our situation and these policies again at the first of next year.
We realize our employees are responsible for much of our success. Knowing that makes this decision even more difficult. However, if if we don’t act prudently now the cost to our employees could be greater.
In his memo, reprinted in full after the jump, Smith noted a couple of factors contributing to the decision to cut back:
- Advertising revenue declines “for the second consecutive year and the newspaper industry as a whole for the third year in a row.”
- A 24 percent increase in the cost of newsprint, year over year, adding $4 million to the newspapers’ costs.
- Its more than 1,100 carriers drive 1.6 million per month to deliver the paper. Fuel costs have risen.
Smith’s memo also noted that, “Many banking companies, auto dealers, real estate firms and retailers of all kinds are struggling to maintain their operations.” Those, of course, are all major newspapers advertisers, particularly the auto dealers. And earlier this week, we heard how auto dealers’ tough times were rippling through the newspaper industry.
Max also notes something us at Arkansas Business Publishing Group, as niche publishers, are very well aware of: that to find new revenue sources, the Democrat-Gazette has dipped into niche publishing. It launched Sync, aimed at younger readers, a little more than a year ago, and it plans to battle our company’s own society magazine, Little Rock Soiree, in September with a new monthly glossy mag called Arkansas Life.
We’ll also point out something Democrat-Gazette subscribers might already be aware of: the paper has increased its subscription rates.
Larry Graham, the paper’s circ director, announced the increase in business brief in the paper’s Saturday edition on Aug. 2. One-month subscriptions for seven-day delivery goes up a $1 to $13; three-month subscriptions for seven-day delivery goes to $39 from $36; one-month subs for Sunday-only delivery goes to $6.25 from $5.67; and the three-month rate for Sunday-only goes to $18.75 from $17.
Graham cited higher fuel costs for the increase. He said single copy sales wouldn’t budge, citing the cost to revamp the vending machines.
(The full memo from Smith after the jump.)
Blogging has been light lately as we’re working overtime on the launch of our first ever ArkansasSports360.com Arkansas College & High School Football Preview. On Monday, you can pick up your free copy at all First Security Bank and AT&T locations — so while you’re waiting in line for the new iPhone, check us out.
As you might expect, there will be a lot happening on the ArkansasSports360.com Web site next week. All the content from the preview will be available, including a video series by our Razorbacks expert Chris Bahn previewing the Hogs 2008 season, and even a special interactive version of magazine, which allows you to search within its pages, bookmark specific features and even share pages on your Facebook page.
Altogether, it makes for an fun multimedia launch strategy that I don’t think has been seen before in Arkansas. And with lots of solid competition on the high school football scene, it helps to set yourself apart as much as possible. We think we’ve accomplished that goal.
After the jump, a video preview on what to expect in the 132-page magazine, featuring a positively giddy Jim Harris.