Small publishers barely feel the pinch
Although sales for the newspaper industry as a whole fell an average of 15% in the first nine months of 2008, revenues fell an average of 2% for papers under 100,000, according to data just published by two trade associations representing smaller publishers.
The survey of small and medium newspapers is the first ever undertaken by the trade groups, which are the Suburban Newspapers of America (SNA) and the National Newspaper Association.
“Local advertisers continue to value the hyper-local news and desirable local audience provided by community newspapers,” said SNA president Nancy Lane in a press release. “Community papers are affected by the current economic downturn but they are not in a crisis. In fact, there are some that are showing growth.”
The reasons for the disparity are clear. While metros face stiff competition from competing electronic and online media for readers and advertising dollars, smaller papers often are the only vehicles for news and advertising in the communities they serve.
Because it would not be cost effective for interlopers to compete in the compact and typically isolated markets served by small-fry publishers, they have greater advertising market share and more control over their rates than metros.
Unlike their big-city cousins, which have been ravaged by staff cuts in efforts to make ends meet, the SNA says “83% of the reporting companies had no planned staff reductions in 2008.”
The ability of most small papers to sustain their coverage will be a major factor in helping them preserve the strength of their franchises, putting them in a position for future growth that the big guys will surely envy.