It's becoming distressingly clear that the hoped-for economic recovery isn't happening fast enough to help the newspaper industry.
First-quarter reports from publicly traded newspaper companies were less than encouraging, with a number of major publishers recording losses or severely narrowed operating profits.
Ad revenues for the first three months, meantime, dropped another 7 percent, although that decrease was offset somewhat by a 10 percent rise in digital ad sales.
And, maddeningly and sadly, layoffs and furloughs continue. The latest bombshell: the June 21 move by Gannett Co. Inc. to lop off 700 jobs from its U.S. Community Publishing newspaper unit.
Layoffs ranged across the board, but appeared to center on newsrooms. We've said this before, but a strategy based on eliminating a newspaper's core competency - the creation of professionally produced news and information - isn't much of a strategy at all.
So what to do? Digital ad revenues aren't the answer. Yes, digital ad sales are growing. But the simple fact is this: Trillions of digital ads at a few pennies apiece won't pay for the millions required to maintain a major metropolitan paper's newsroom, as Dallas Morning News Publisher Jim Moroney attests in our interview on page 8.
What about digital subscriptions? Too early to tell. While it's clear that restricting online content works to the benefit of specialty pubs such as The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, the future is much hazier for other papers' efforts to build their online revenues.
The New York Times claims to have attracted more than 100,000 readers to its metered subscription plan - a good start - but it's unclear whether revenues stemming from The Times' online subscribers will be enough to support the paper's operations in light of declining ads and circ totals.
Yet the newspaper industry needn't go quietly in the night.
There are evolving markets, such as mobile distribution, that promise new audiences and new revenues. There are intriguing technologies, such as press modifications and add-ons such as UV, stitching and color units, that could dramatically transform the centuries-old broadsheet and tabloid formats. (See our interview with industry consultant Sam Wagner on page 14 for more on this subject.)
And there are niche markets to exploit, whether by producing content for specific audiences or by using technologies such as digital presses to personalize news and information to demographically attractive groups.
The newspaper industry is too important to go down without a fight. But it won't get anywhere if executives are too timid to do anything but what they've done in the past: cut, eliminate and pledge allegiance to the status quo.
For the second consecutive time, the organizers of Drupa designated News & Tech as a media partner for its quadrennial exhibition.
News & Tech is one of only three U.S. publications to be selected as a partner for drupa 2012 and the only one whose primary focus is newspaper and magazine production.
The partnership means News & Tech readers will get advance information about the trade show, the exhibitors and the technologies to be displayed and introduced.
That's critical, said News & Tech Publisher Mary L. Van Meter, because drupa is the worldwide stage for publishing and printing innovations.
"The 2008 show ushered in digital press technologies and other key platforms, and we expect that next year's exhibition will showcase mobile and social media applications that are becoming increasingly important to newspaper and magazine publishers," she said. "We're honored to receive this prestigious designation."
Drupa is scheduled for May 3-16, 2012, in Dusseldorf, Germany.