Why Palms West Journal ditched the print and is now all digital
Palms West Journal's latest newsletter, podcast and website homepage.
People thought I was crazy buying this newspaper nearly two years ago. “Don’t you know the newspaper business is dying!”
Of course the newspaper business is dying. From 2002 to 2020, newspaper circulation decreased 56%. Revenues from newspapers were also down by over half in that period from $46.2 to $22.1 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I got into this business not to go down with the ship, but to learn this industry so that we can more effectively provide value to our advertisers while connecting and strengthening our community and possibly finding ways to help the news industry overall.
While print is in decline, digital advertising has seen incredible growth. In 2020, digital advertising spending was nearly five times as much as just a decade earlier. In 2011 digital advertising accounted for 20% of total advertising. By 2020 that number had ballooned to 63%, according to Pew Research.
To better connect and strengthen the community and provide more value to our advertisers, we have taken Palms West Journal completely digital. We now have an entire array of digital products, including a dynamic, multifunctional website, active social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, a free weekly newsletter, a podcast where you can hear the voices and stories of this community, and a calendar page on our website to let you know the latest happenings in our community. All of this without spending a penny on printing or postage.
Palms West Journal is now offering sponsored articles. These articles are a great way for businesses to introduce themselves to the community. We can conduct interviews, write stories and promote them on our social media channels. We can get our sponsors’ stories in front of tens of thousands of people in this community.
Our newsletter is the fastest-growing area of our digital outreach. Growing at about 100 subscribers a week, the newsletter has a 50%+ open rate, roughly twice the industry standard. This community has a thirst for local news and events, and our weekly newsletter has proved to be an invaluable tool as we inform and connect people.
I know there is something nostalgic about picking up a paper, but the truth is everyone is online and it is cheaper to reach people there. I am convinced, dollar for dollar, I can give my advertisers more value online. That means you don’t have to choose between Palms West Journal and social media. We can connect you to the community through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Apple Podcast, Google Play and direct email. We use the tools of modern media to give our sponsors the most value we can while doing our best to serve the community.
Resources are limited. It was an extremely tough decision to discontinue print, but I am convinced it was the right one. I have learned three major problems regarding print the past couple of years:
1) Inefficient operations. The elements of the print side of the business are so different from all other aspects. Print requires a different set of software and skills. Also, print changes the nature of our publishing because we have to build the business around the printing schedule and needs. But the central part of our business must be the people of this community. These new digital tools give us the ability to focus more on the people, not the paper.
2) Supplier risks. Because so many companies have gone digital, leaving so little print, only one company in all of South Florida can print newspapers. A machine called a web press is required, and these presses are hard to come by. Out-of-state companies can print newspapers, but that requires freight shipping and an extra week, making an already inefficient process more inefficient, more expensive and less timely. An out-of-state printer is not a viable option, and I feel uncomfortable having my entire business dependent on a single vendor.
3) Missing feedback. With print, we get so little information. Which stories do people like? What are they reading? How do we get people to engage? We know much more from our digital tools. We can see so much detail about what stories are breaking through and which fall short. Of course, it is better for the community if we have more interesting and engaging stories, but it is also better for our advertisers.
If our mission includes strengthening and connecting the community while providing value to our sponsors, I am convinced we can better achieve those ends if we focus on digital. I know this is a big change for a newspaper that has been around for over a decade, but with these digital tools we can better tell the stories of the people in this community. I hope you will join us along this journey.
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If you have a story you want us to cover, email email@example.com or contact us here.
For more information about becoming a sponsor, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us here.