SAN DIEGO – The Key Executives Mega-Conference 2018 San Diego opened in late February with a record breaking 730 media executives in attendance. Jeff Light, publisher and editor-in-chief of the San Diego Union-Tribune, welcomed attendees and set the tone with his opening remarks on the topic "great journalism drives great success."
In 1990, the number of daily newspaper journalists was 56,900 and in 2018 the number is 25,000, according to keynote speaker Ken Doctor, media industry analyst and author for Newsonomics.
Doctor followed up with a clear roadmap and benchmark of the industry. He explained that the current trend happening is mega-clustering, with three chains owning 25 percent of local press. "Google and Facebook have built an unassailable ad duopoly with 89 percent ownership of the digital advertising market. They've left maybe 10 percent, table scraps, for news and all other ad-supported media. That 10 percent still represents $1.4 billion and finally, publishers are now acknowledging that the first big digital revenue stream, digital display, is going, going, gone, just like the print business that's ebbing away even more quickly," he said.
"Commercial revenue isn't going away, but digital display — optimized by Google and Facebook — is for news publishers. That's why the smartest publishers have profoundly moved their commercial staffs to the pursuits of branded content, marketing services, video, audio and events, all areas outside the direct line of the duopoly death ray," stated Doctor.
"The Washington Post has reached the 1 million digital subscription mark, and that generates about $100 million a year in revenue, almost all of it new in the last several years. You can do the math: about $100 per digital subscriber per year, achieved even with Kindle, Apple News, and Prime discounting and over-the-digital transom subs for the full-price payers. By comparison, The New York Times, with twice the number of digital news subscribers, averages $125 per sub," Doctor said.
“Then there's the Post's more than tripling of digital audience in four years. That hasn't quite led to a tripling of programmatic ad revenue, but it's more than doubled.”
“In order to succeed publishers will have to concentrate on a long-term vision with passion, prudent re-investment, and acceptance of lower profit, crossover financial strategy, next-generation talent and mobile product focus. Eighty-eight of our digital revenue comes from 12 percent of our audience and 65 percent of all U.S. dailies have a paywall. "In order to overcome the currently market challenges our industry must focus on relevance, relationships and revenue," he said.