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Reflections on Harrisburg and the future of print media

As I reflect on the recently concluded 5th Annual News Media Business Summit, my mind casts towards the future of print media and what we need to do to ensure the industry's success.

The Summit, held in Harrisburg, PA explored many facets of what makes a media company more vibrant, more digitally focused, and of course, how to improve upon their digital and print strategies.

While finding a common theme might be difficult, there were many takeaways that we would be wise to explore.

News organizations must figure out how to be vibrant

Jim Porter, Chief Executive Officer of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, discussed his years in the news media industry and how that translates into his current role with the HOF. He noted how he watches his HOF employees as they come to work, they are usually early and walk briskly and are moving quickly as it seems they are excited to come and make a difference. 

Contrast this with his years in the news media where the employees arrived at exactly the given time, moving slowly without the skip in their step so to speak. That is due to a lack of vibrancy and excitement. We have to make the job fun, fulfilling, exciting and vibrant if we want to achieve our peak potential.

Digital revenue streams are essential for survival

Several speakers, led by Guy Tasaka, the Managing Director of the Technology Resource Center at Local Media Association, touched on the many digital strategies and products needed to win at the digital game.

We heard that data is king and that we must update and explore customer relationship management systems that carry this heavy load.

Reputation management, loyalty programs, mobile-friendly products, and alternative revenue streams are a must. While we have in essence traded print dollars for digital nickels, nonetheless, we must gain and keep as many of those digital nickels as possible.

The future of print media is bright

While not covered at the Summit, I believe there is a future for print, but we must be honest with our assessment of the future as well. Let me provide some contextual landscape.  

Currently, the baby boomer generation and those even older are currently sitting on over half of the total wealth of our nation. As these older generations continue to dwindle in size, we will witness and experience the greatest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen. 

Not only will it be the largest, but it will also be the most revolutionary transfer of wealth. It will change and impact many of the traditional aspects of our current life.

The younger generations, those that will be the beneficiary of this massive wealth transfer, think vastly differently than do their predecessors. They value experiences over material things. They value digital assets such as crypto over traditional stocks and bonds. Their work habits tend to be vastly different. 

But above all, they have been raised practically solely in a digital world where nearly everything can take place in the palm of their hands. This has significant implications for the future of print media and how content and advertisements are served, consumed and monetized. Businesses that not only understand this digital evolution but prepare for it will be vastly better prepared to face the challenges this massive financial shift is sure to bring.

A "third-leg" of revenue needs to be found

Speaking of the future of print media, while there was a strong message relating to the value and need for print, most found themselves entrenched on the side of print that will be more powerful when combined with strong digital strategies.

In fact, as was pointed out by Aaron Kotarek, VP of operations and audience at Oahu Publications, Inc, print and digital alone may not be enough. There are no trend lines that show that being a long-term viable solution. 

It is when we couple those two legs with a third-leg of revenue generation, then we will find the ultimate long-term success. I must agree 100% as the need for additional revenue sources is great, if we fail to find that third-leg, there is little that can save the news media industry.

While I could go on and on with other points and takeaways, let me just say, the Summit was the best event I have attended in years. Great speakers and presenters! We are already looking forward to 2023 and an even more powerful program and impact. Keep in touch with me on LinkedIn to hear more about upcoming events for local media.

About the Author

John Newby's unique insights on local news media are informed by his diverse 30 year career in news publishing, tourism, revitalization, and economic development. As a national columnist and community media consultant, John authors "Building Main Street, not Wall Street," a column carried by 50+ media companies across the country.John is a 10-yr. veteran of the U.S. Air Force serving as a weather forecaster. His hobbies are history, economics, sports and traveling so that he and his wife Kathy can spend time with their nine children spread throughout the country.

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