The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism spent a year looking to identify newspaper successes in the search for new business models, producing a report analyzing four dailies — including the Deseret News — whose executives shared the motivation, strategy and internal data behind their new business models.
"One paper, contrary to a downward industry trend, has enjoyed an increase in overall revenue in both 2011 and 2012," the Pew report said in its study overview. "Another has seen digital revenues average nearly 50 percent annual growth since 2010. A third has developed a fast-growing revenue stream outside of the core business while the fourth has seen the growth of digital revenue largely offset print losses."
All of the organizations embarked on business-side experiments over the past two or three years, with each introducing different innovations that were tailored to the particulars of their own markets.
At the Deseret News, the paper shifted its focus of coverage from general interest to core areas like faith, family, education, values in the media, financial responsibility and care for the poor, and put a particular emphasis on enterprise reporting. The innovations at the paper were perhaps the most comprehensive of those studied, according to Pew.
"Operating a news organization owned by a religious organization means CEO Clark Gilbert hears concerns that the paper has an underlying agenda," the Pew report said. However, Gilbert told Pew that the paper's mission is not to promote an agenda, but rather to produce quality enterprise journalism on a range of topics that he believes much of the media does not understand.
The journalism has "to be rigorous," Gilbert said. "It can't be denominational. But it's asking questions that people of faith and people who are family oriented would ask."
As part of the changes at the Deseret News, Gilbert engineered a major reorganization of the Deseret media properties and focused on "building a digital company, creating a new-and more narrowly focused-editorial identity for the newspaper and unveiling a weekly national print edition," Pew said.
The results, according to Pew's report, show that "digital revenue has been growing at over 40 percent a year since 2010 while daily and Sunday circulation jumped about 33 percent and 90 percent respectively from September 2011 to September 2012."
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