In February, Omaha-based BH Media announced it would be trimming 148 jobs across its newspapers and leaving 101 positions unfilled. The reduction in staff represents about 6 percent of its workforce.
BH Media Group owns and operates 31 daily newspapers, 47 weekly papers and 32 other print products. In addition, BH Media Group owns and operates WPLG Channel 10 in the Miami, Florida, market.
The reductions in staff were in response to realities reshaping the industry, said BH Media Group President and CEO Terry Kroeger. Advertisers have cut back on placements because of the increasing popularity of online shopping and the related disruption to regional and national businesses.
"The data suggest our industry is changing, not dying," said Kroeger. "Our news content has never been more important than it is right now."
News & Tech recently met with Kroeger concerning his thoughts on the future of newspapers.
News & Tech: What is the future of the daily print newspaper?
Kroeger: There will always be a demand for fact-based local journalism. As technology changes, we have a responsibility to find new ways to reach our audience with credible information. The daily printed newspaper is still valued by many of our readers, but that may not always be the case. As the tools people use change, we must continue to adapt with them, whether those tools include traditional computers, smart phones, tablets or perhaps tools we don't know about yet. Certainly, the future of printed newspapers is uncertain, but the journalism we produce remains critically important to the communities we serve.
News & Tech: Is BH Media interested in acquiring more newspapers, and if so what's the one lesson you've learned about investing in newspapers?
Kroeger: We will continue to evaluate potential acquisitions as we have done for decades.
News & Tech: Given the recent digital success reported by large newspapers, what do you see as the priority when investing in digital initiatives? How do pay walls and digital subscriptions fit into your overall digital strategy?
Kroeger: We are investing in digital news, digital subscriptions, and creating a great user experience for our audience. We are testing various metering approaches, load times, and subscriber-only content with limited ads, among other things. We believe we produce unique, interesting and useful journalism that is essential to our local readers. It is important that this readership carry a revenue stream, which could be in the form of subscriptions, advertising, surveys or other sources.
News & Tech: What is BH Media's biggest challenge in the next five years?
Kroeger: Executing the transition to digital, while managing our legacy costs at the same time.
News & Tech: You've said "The data suggest our industry is changing, not dying." Can you elaborate on that?
Kroeger: What's changing is the way our audience receives the news. Total page views across BH Media Group websites were up 22 percent in 2017, to 1.3 billion. Digital subscriptions increased 85 percent in 2017. So it's clear that there continues to be demand for what we provide. We remain an important part of our readers' lives. It's important that we meet our readers where they are.
It's clear that our company and our industry have a lot of work to do and a lot of changes to make. But I can tell you, as a 33-year veteran of newspapering, there has never been a time when the business has been more exciting or invigorating as we reinvent ourselves for the future.