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Business Makeover: Print Publishing


If it's broke, fix it.


As more people turn to the Internet for their news, magazines and newspapers are suffering. Revenue for the New York Times Company's (NYT) online arm was up after a weak July -- which proved encouraging to investors -- but advertising in the paper fell 14% in August from a year earlier. Meanwhile, rival New York Sun is closing its doors after 6 years of struggle.

For McClatchy (MNI), which owns papers from California to Kansas to Florida, the situation is equally challenging: July and August revenues were both down 17% from the prior year.

With a declining reader base, fewer advertisers and rising debt, what are some measures that dead-tree media can take to prevent the death of the printed word?

Magazine sales fell 6% in the first half of 2008 - except for People and InStyle, which experienced growth. Therefore, grow readership by freeing up cover space for fashion disasters, beach cellulite and celebrities declaring they're gay.

With newspapers losing hours to printing and delivery, readers are essentially receiving old news. Along with articles, include staff writers' personal phone numbers so that readers can call and get updated as to what happened since each piece's deadline.

The environmentally conscious prefer reading blogs, since they don't require any wasted paper. Avoid resource consumption by printing articles into reusable Etch-A-Sketches.

Media conglomerates often own multiple newspapers and magazines - a clear conflict of interest, which drives readers to more independent sources. Bully smaller ventures that refuse to be bought out into Chapter 11 through yellow journalism, intimidation and corporate strong-arming.

Barring inclusion on summer reading lists, a novel can't be guaranteed success without Oprah's Book Club endorsement. Ensure her approval by writing about a neglected housewife being rescued by an equestrian winemaker and his love of musicals, French architecture and the poetry of Rumi.

Black-on-white print is so boring. Try a dark blue-on-lavender motif. In a Comic-Sans font.

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