Flanders and Pruitt Look to Future in Mid-Year Review Roundtable

By: E&P Staff Beyond the individual presentations by executives at the Mid-Year Media Review in New York City this week, the Newspaper Association of America also sponsored a roundtable, which focused on the future.

Forbes.com carried excerpts on its site. Here are a few quotes from Gary Pruitt, chairman, president and chief executive of McClatchy, and Scott Flanders, president and chief executive of privately held Freedom Communications.

On promising sources of advertising growth

Flanders: Video is what excites me the most. The advertising model isn't user-friendly yet, it is more disruptive than newspaper advertising. [But] the future is going to be micro-hosted video sites, a lot will be user-generated content but increasingly our reporters have camcorders and are posting their own video. They're all going to be video journalists in the future.

On how newspapers should pitch their print and Internet properties to advertisers

Pruitt: We need to have the advertisers think in terms of total audience reach, not just circulation. Circulation is always going to be important because that's what pre-print advertisers buy ? they need to know that precise number. But we need to think in terms of audience and most of the [advertising] buys need to be in terms of audience. After all, that's how people are buying [advertising spots on] radio or television. Therefore to be comparable, we need to move to that metric.

On how the newspaper industry should respond to the continued erosion in classified advertising revenue

Flanders: I think we as an industry need to look very hard at the free classified model because I think part of it is a critical-mass issue. As our pages of print classifieds get smaller and smaller, it becomes a slippery slope of relevance as to whether we're going to have the reader referencing those pages. I think we may have to look through the other end of the telescope and develop a point of view that maybe it means we need to walk away from some of the traditional revenue sources [for the sake of audience aggregation].

On the industry's advertising partnerships with Google and Yahoo!

Pruitt: We will never be the technology company that Google will be or that Yahoo! will be. But they're not going to be a local news and content company the way we are either and they recognize that and they would like to get into the local market. They're not going to hire hundreds of people to sell locally or to cover the market locally. We have the biggest newsroom, the biggest sales force and leading local Internet sites. So, as they crave that local entry, they know they need feet on the street, they need a local presence. No better way to get that than with a newspaper. They'll be our friends but of course we'll all be competing in terms of the Web sites as well.

On the need to accept lower profit margins

Flanders: It's painful for me to see us ever under-invest in content and audience aggregation even if in the short run we have to accept lower margins. It's nothing compared to the absence of margin that Amazon got by with for a decade. Look at the kind of share that they built and the brand that they built and the kind of user loyalty that they built. In our local communities, we are just as well-known there as Amazon is on a national level. To me, it'd be a real shame to see the industry starve the investment that's needed to take advantage of that opportunity.


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