Despite the fact that Deseret News print readership grew by 20 percent in 2009 — the highest growth rate of any newspaper in the country — the new realities of the print business model have forced changes in the paper.
But unlike many other newspapers around the country, the Deseret News has done more than just reduce costs.
While these changes present challenges, they also open opportunities for reinvention, said Clark Gilbert, Deseret News President and CEO. The leaders at the Deseret News plan to take advantage of these opportunities, ensuring a bright future for the newspaper and its readers.
"Changes in the industry have forced some newspapers to fade or even close," said Gilbert. "At the Deseret News, we choose to lead and innovate."
Traditional newspaper revenues have steadily declined during the last 60 years, moving from nearly 40 percent of the advertising market in 1950 to around 15 percent two years ago, according to Gordon Borrell, a local media expert.
Since 1996, Internet growth has cut into the market share and profits of newspapers, said Borrell.
Leading innovation scholars have also weighed in on these changes. Clayton Christensen, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, explains that the reality is simple: Print journalism is a classic case of an industry facing a disruptive innovation. "What people don't understand about disruption is that even as it attacks old models, it creates new growth," Christensen said. "Hundreds of thousands of readers now access the Deseret News through the Internet."
He said it was just five years ago that he worked with Gilbert at the Harvard Business School on Newspaper Next, a multimonth study for the entire newspaper industry.
The pair studied some 250 American daily newspapers and found that, in an effort to defend the print business, newspapers, in general, had failed to realize that a new Internet business was growing around them. The study found that newspapers were missing out on nearly $300 million in annual profits by failing to use the Internet to serve new advertisers.
"Working with the American Press Institute, nearly every major news organization in the country participated with us," said Christensen of the study. "Some of them listened, and some of them didn't. The Deseret News team understands this and has built a strategy to embrace that growth."
This strategy includes a five-part plan "to become a leader in the industry and a model for change," said Gilbert.
As part of the plan, the Deseret News will integrate its newsroom with KSL to create the market's largest news coverage team. The Deseret News has also organized a new editorial advisory board that will provide breadth and depth in opinion to the publication.
In addition, the Deseret News will increase in-depth coverage from the organization's strong journalists while launching Deseret Connect, an innovative system to collect outside writers and editors from around the world. These remote contributors will bring expertise to complement the reporting from the internal newsroom. Finally, the Deseret News has created a cutting-edge digital team to expand its Internet reach.
"All of us involved in the newspaper business have been challenged to adapt our traditional newspaper business model to our new realities," said Mark Contreras, senior vice president of E.W. Scripps and chairman of the Newspaper Association of America. "The Deseret News team has showed courageous leadership, not just to make the difficult decisions around costs, but to define a broader and more digitally focused future."
Chris Lee, general manager of deseretnews.com, has spent the last decade working with Internet businesses, including myfamily.com, ancestry.com and www.heritagemakers.com. He said one way the Deseret News will position itself in the industry is to recognize that the Internet is fundamentally different than a print newspaper. "We intend to take full advantage of those differences," he said.
The main difference, he continued, is that the Internet creates a two-way communication path that is different than the traditional communication path of a newspaper. "We believe that allows us the opportunity to create an exchange of ideas, an exchange of thought," he said, noting that the Internet facilitates "real-time feedback and the ability to engage readers in conversation and have them participate."
The Internet also positions the Deseret News for the future. "The pace of change, because of the use of the Internet, is so much faster," Lee said. "It forces us to innovate all the time."