President, Local Media Association
Nancy Lane serves as President of the Local Media Association. Before joining LMA, she spent 13 years in the newspaper industry as a publisher and advertising director in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Missouri.
The silos are gone in a lot of companies. And the business side is working with the journalism side. And everybody’s working together on audience development. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold. And I feel like the newsroom, for the first time, is actively involved in the business model of news. And they never were before. They never wanted to be. In fact, they despised it. But their future, and the future of journalism, really relies on them taking an active interest and help to figure it out.
Their events division is pretty spectacular. And we have been saying for 10 years that events are part of the transformation storm. … They have a team that really knows how to produce events, knows how to sell the sponsorships, knows how to, in each market, uncover the events that are going to work. And they’ll bring in top-name personalities. So if they’re having a high school sports banquet in a bigger market, they’ll bring in a Drew Brees as the guest speaker. That brings in a lot of sponsorship money. It brings in a lot of registrations for the event. It’s a great community builder, because it’s built around high school athletes.
I do think reduction in frequency is the next thing that’s going to happen. We had the announcement that McClatchy is going to drop Saturday in a number of markets. They already have in Myrtle Beach. It played out well for them in Myrtle Beach as a test. I think there’s three or four markets they’re now going to do that with. … Everyone expects print frequency to reduce. It’s in every scenario that every company talks about in like five years, 10 years, whatever the number is, first step for print going away would be a reduction in frequency from seven days to something else to eventually just a Sunday product. This is not shocking. But there’s still a lot of resistance to it. And I actually applaud McClatchy for trying this.
They talked about a hybrid model where perhaps the journalism goes under a nonprofit umbrella and the commercial part of the business remains for-profit. And perhaps for family-owned newspapers, this could be a model, because the nonprofit would allow them to get funding from community foundations, from donors and individuals, in a way that they can’t as a for-profit. And so we’re very intrigued by the nonprofit model as well, and want to see how that plays out.
We have a local news resource center at LMA (the Local Media Association). It is funded by Facebook, but we operate it independently. And we’re working with media companies on growing their audience. And a lot of it is via social networks.
On the broadcast side, they are dominated by advertising revenue and retransmission fees. And they’re doing quite well. They had record earnings in the last few years. And even though disruption is coming their way, they have a lot more runway.
I think that Netflix, OTT, anything that pulls away from traditional TV is going to disrupt that industry further. And it’s amazing that it hasn’t thus far, with their revenues still being as strong as they are. But I will say the broadcasters see it coming. And they are preparing for that disruption. And they are taking active steps to make sure that they’re in that space, and that they’re disrupting themselves as well. Some better than others. But I really feel like the broadcasters get it, and aren’t going to sit back and be surprised by the disruption that happens.
(Local TV stations are) expanding into all kinds of areas. If you think about broadcasts and the big personalities they have in local markets, they could truly build some experiential VIP-type memberships that could give viewers access to all kinds of cool things beyond content. So I’m not really talking about a membership model to pay for the news on the TV website. I’m talking about a true membership model that includes really cool things. So that’s one thing that we see emerging. But a lot of investment is being made in OTT, and in new business models for broadcasters. And they’re investing heavily in digital, which maybe they were slower than newspapers.
Everybody has made digital subscriptions their top priority. And we say the jury is out on whether that’s a sustainable business model for small-size newspapers. We don’t have a model to point to yet that says it is. We think it’s a no-brainer for the national players like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. We think the large regionals, as we call them, the Boston Globe, Seattle Times, no-brainer. Beyond the top 10, we don’t know. … If you run the numbers, and the price of the subscription, and how many they would need to get, and how much work it is to get those, it’s really hard.
I truly believe that if we don’t find new and sustainable business models in the next three to five years, we will be looking at a lot of newspapers going out of business. And that keeps me up every night of my life.