Business of News: Seven Resolutions for Newspapers in 2019

Throughout the years, my New Year’s resolutions have helped me lose 30 pounds (and gain 50 back with no help from resolutions). I’ve never given up on the idea that the new year is a great time to pause, evaluate and make changes I need to make. Here are seven resolutions newspapers ought to make in 2019.

  1. Improve your newsroom diversity. Let’s go with the no-brainer first, but it needs saying. The country is split—along economic, ethnic and gender lines. We are in the midst of an historic “Me Too” movement and still women are under-represented on the big stories. According to a 2017 report by women in the U.S. media, “Female journalists continue to report less of the news than do male journalists” in the top 20 news outlets— and the difference was “especially glaring in TV news.” When it comes to ethnic minorities, only around one newsroom in eight is even responding to an annual survey. If you assume that those who responded did so because they weren’t ashamed of their ethnic minority hiring, then the 22 percent figure terrible. The number of ethnic minorities in newsroom is still far below what America looks like.  Resolve to make at least some progress in this important area in 2019.
  2. Create a wider gulf between yourself and Facebook. This is a data collection company that uses the news we pay for to build their businesses. The new Congress is anti-high tech and the executive of media companies are fighting for permission that would allow them to bend anti-trust rules and band together to negotiate new terms with Facebook. Most of us normally favor free market solutions to business problems, but Facebook is reasonably close to running our government and we need to keep them from using our content to build their business.
  3. Figure out your podcast strategy or enhance your podcast strategy. Reuters has done some intriguing research on how people access news on smart speakers (think Echo and Alexa) and the results will not surprise you. While these are not quite podcasts, the research transcends: People want more news—updated more frequently—in quicker bites. They want to make it easier to skip around past the dull parts. I’ve written previously about this important avenue to reach audiences that continue to grow.
  4. Make a real effort to find local experts to cover the fields you used to cover when you had more reporters, i.e., philanthropy, faith, business. I am on the other side of the fence now, as a community member who reads my local newspaper and who misses coverage of certain beats it used to provide. So find local experts in these fields and train them to write newsy columns on the most important beats you are not covering because your staff is smaller.
  5. When it comes to breaking news, figure out your game and play it. Smaller staffs and earlier deadlines mean less and less breaking news in tomorrow morning’s print edition. Frankly, I don’t expect much in the way of breaking news from a printed product that is 12 hours old by the time I get it. What I do expect is stories I can’t read anywhere else. We have huge wildfires in Southern California where I live, and TV keeps me constantly updated. My favorite story in my local newspaper during the recent fires explained to me what life is like in the firefighters’ encampment when they are getting a break.
  6. Try to figure out how to reach millennials. They are going to vote in 2020. They are going to get information somewhere. They do not love your traditional models of website news and ads so you have to figure out another way to get them. There are some innovative websites and plans out there having success with young people.
  7. Meet and associate with people who do not work in government or in journalism. We need to know more people outside the newsroom and the local government agencies. We will relate more closely to them when we find out what their lives are like.


Tim Gallagher is president of The 20/20 Network, a public relations and strategic communications firm. He is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher at The Albuquerque Tribune and the Ventura County Star newspapers. Reach him at

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One thought on “Business of News: Seven Resolutions for Newspapers in 2019

  • January 22, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Back in 2009 I made a list of 25 things newspapers could try before turning out the lights 🙂

    1: Focus on original content, do not rewrite wire stories or press releases. If newspapers start charging for content people are more likely pay for content they can’t get anywhere else.

    2: Focus on hyper-local coverage, newspapers should “own” their regional beat because they have the best contacts and the best understanding of local companies and issues. For example, SF Chronicle or the San Jose Mercury should be breaking all the top Apple or Google stories.

    3: Don’t run foreign bureaus unless you are the New York Times or the like, or are publishing a unique perspective relevant to your community.

    4: Be a regular and visible part of your local communities by making sure journalists get out of the office.

    5: Become an active teacher of media literacy and also media production in your local communities. Help teach citizen journalists how to be great journalists, editors, photographers, videographers, etc. Teach how to be effective and ethical.

    6: Celebrate the best citizen journalists/bloggers in your communities, publish them on your platform.

    7: Become involved in local events, organize conferences. There is a lot of money in conferences. The newspaper becomes a vehicle for drawing people to the conferences.

    8: Don’t let advertising networks sell your advertising. They take a huge cut for serving ads and you lose the customer connection. I often see newspapers running Google AdSense on their front page and at the bottom of the ads there is the message: “If you’d like to advertise on this site click here.” That click takes prospective customers to Google and not to the newspaper. Newspapers should always own their customer relationship.

    9: Develop a hybrid content strategy for search engines and news aggregators that takes advantage of the distribution power of the Internet without giving away all the content.

    10: Adopt a culture of a “news organization” rather than a “newspaper.” Paper or electron, it shouldn’t matter how the news is delivered.

    11: Offer some way for readers to pay. Every newspaper has a group of fiercely loyal readers, some more than others, but there is no way for them to pay if they want to read their newspaper online. Many people like the positive ecological aspect of reading online and are proud they are saving resources–and many would be willing to pay for this vastly improved product yet the newspapers don’t offer any way to collect this easy revenue. One way might be witha PBS-style volunteer membership package? With discounts among local businesses.

    12: Become the host for all important discussions about local issues and politics. Moderate the discussions to ensure civil discourse. Nothing kills discussions faster than offensive comments made by anonymous people.

    13: Newspaper journalists need new publishing skills in video, audio, images, and should have some basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. Being able to type is not enough.

    14: Help raise money for schools and other essential local services. Show you are part of the community.

    15: Create a safe online experience, free from phishing, malware, and adverts for scam services.

    16: Create a search site to search local resources and businesses.

    17: Create a news aggregation site that provides your readers with access to news and other articles available elsewhere.

    18: Each newspaper section should provide a search engine specific to its topic and region: Business: Company information and financial services. Home: Search for builders, furniture, decorators. Food: Search for recipes, local restaurants, etc.

    19: Offer free classified adverts online and also have a free section in print. You can charge for a premium listing that offers better visibility.

    20: Create informational pages to help people in your communities with common tasks such as how to get a business license. Where to find your car if it has been towed. Information for people that have recently moved into the area. In different languages. Have your web people create pages that are mashups of available online data but presented in a more accessible form, such as mapping police reports onto regional maps. School information, etc.

    21: Hire additional salespeople. It is is a different sales environment today and it requires a fresh approach. Salespeople used to selling full page or half-page print ads are not the going to be able to transition easily.

    22: Host web sites for important community groups in your region for free. You can run advertising on them and the groups will benefit from having an easy way to publish online.

    23: Create a way of allowing readers to share in the ownership of the newspaper, or somehow give them a role in what the newspaper should be doing to become more useful to its community.

    24: Create a directory of local businesses with space for user comments. Offer premium listings for a fee that also shows the business is supporting the newspaper, with a sticker. Yellow pages is a huge local business that the newspapers could easily own.

    25: Ask: What are your ideas for helping newspapers transition into the online world?


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