Kevin Slimp Online
Kevin Slimp is a favorite speaker and trainer in the publishing world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industry takes note of "self made" publisher who succeeds by following his instincts, instead of jumping on latest trends.
I feel like a broken record when I remind people just how well community newspapers are doing across America. As I work with hundreds of papers each year, it's a common theme as publishers talk to me about their individual operations. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw a story in Editor & Publisher titled, "Despite 'Doom and Gloom,' Community Newspapers are Growing Stronger" in early June.
What are the three most common questions I'm asked on-site?
When asked why I receive so many requests for help from newspapers, I simply mark it down to longevity. I've been around the business long enough for most publishers, and others, to know me. On Tuesday of last week, I received requests to visit five newspapers in four states. For some, the most pressing need is training. A few seek advice concerning the overall structure of their operations. Still others are hoping I can find the solution to problems which have plagued their newspapers for too long.
Imagine with me, if you will.
It's January 2020. NFL football has been making record profits, primarily due to product licensing and TV contracts, year after year.
Borrowing an old line from Ford, "Quality" really "is job one." Reduce quality, and the result is fewer readers. Reduce readers, and the result is fewer advertisers. Reduce advertisers, and the result is fewer pages. Reduce pages, and the result is even fewer readers. It's a never-ending cycle.
When asked to guess the percentage of newspapers that are independent, not related to any group or other newspapers, most of the attendees guessed the number would be pretty low. They were surprised to learn that 53 percent of newspapers in the U.S. and Canada are independent, without any relationship to even a small group.
Continuing a practice begun in late 2014, I contacted newspaper publishers, CEOs, owners and other top management throughout the U.S. and Canada to get information about the state of their newspapers. After a week, I've received just shy of 800 responses. I suspect that number will increase even more by the time I finish summarizing all the information.
Interestingly, this particular survey had the best response of any I've conducted. Papers of all sizes and types are represented in statistically reliable numbers. There are plenty of metro dailies, as well as tiny weeklies, and everything in between. Even a few monthly and online-only publications took part.
Read on to learn what was most interesting to me.
An editor in South Carolina wrote to me yesterday, "I'm always amazed at your productivity."
I get that a lot these days. Since yesterday, I've written an opinion piece that's already filling my inbox with responses from readers; my fictional weekly serial, The Good Folks of Lennox Valley; and my alarm just reminded me that I'm on deadline to write my column for newspaper professionals.
Looking over my email, I noticed there has been an increase in the number of folks asking for technical advice over the past few weeks. Perhaps work slowed down a bit over the holidays, allowing people more time to write.
Whatever the reason, I've always believed in "dancing with the one who brung ya," so it seems like a good time to answer some questions from readers.
I don't have to spend very long at a newspaper office to tell you how they're doing in terms of circulation, readership, ad sales and profits. No one has to tell me. There are qualities that lead to successful newspapers, and without them it's a good bet that there are some problems in one or more of those four areas.
I could have listed fifty newspapers in this column, because I ran into a lot of papers that are doing things right in 2015. And it's showing in their numbers. Due to space limitations, here are a few that stood out in my memory.
I got out the dusty thesaurus and found a synonym that best describes the newspapers in Minnesota: phenomenal. That's the best word I know of to describe the trip I just took to Minnesota. Yes, that's right, Minnesota.
I've worked with more than 100 papers in Minnesota this year. I know, that's a lot of papers. And there is something that's very apparent as I crisscross the frozen tundra (OK, tundra might be a stretch) of Minnesota, visiting papers from McGregor to Pipestone to Preston: newspapers in Minnesota are doing really well. That truth was never more apparent to me than in late October, when I visited papers in the central and western areas of the state.
The email came to me at 6:15 last night, just as I was getting ready to take my two teenagers out for dinner. It was from Joe, a publisher at a small weekly who, like many newspaper publishers, has become my good friend over the past 20 years.
Before I tell you more about the email, let's step back in time to yesterday afternoon when I mentioned to some folks in my office that I needed to come up with a topic for today's column. A couple of ideas were tossed around when, finally, I said, "Don't worry. Something will come up. It always does."
I just didn't know that "something" would be my friend, Joe.
The Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame celebrated its opening on Friday, July 17, 2015. It was a glorious evening, filled with a celebration fit for the industry it represents.
Last week, I spent a day with a weekly newspaper in Eastern Ohio. I even took a pic of the big building shaped like a basket to prove it. After lunch, the publisher asked something I've heard quite often in my visits with 100-plus newspapers this year, "Could you take a little time to teach us some things about Bridge?"
With so many newspapers reporting a really good year, why are there still newspapers who aren't? I thought about this as I drove to the airport this morning (the roads are pretty clear at 2 a.m. in Sioux Falls, making it safe to think while driving) and came up with what I'm calling:
My top four reasons some newspapers aren't having a great year
I couldn’t help but think of all the speakers and teachers I’ve had over the years.