April 8, 2020 — The coronavirus crisis has forced publishers to move rapidly to reduce print-related costs and transition their business models to more digitally-dependent news and information platforms.
That’s one of the clearest conclusions from the results of a Cribb, Greene & Cope Coronavirus Survey of newspaper owners and publishers released today. Seventy-six newspaper executives from across the country participated in the survey.
The COVID-19 crisis is pushing newspaper executives to take unprecedented measures to ensure their sustainability and relevance in a post-pandemic world. Nearly 50% of the survey respondents are projecting ad revenue declines of 30% or more in the second quarter of this year.
“Best to make dramatic cuts now rather than slowly,” one survey respondent said. “Focus on digital-first and push everything through social media.”
Several advised colleagues to use the crisis as a time to strengthen relationships with advertisers and readers. “Do everything you can to show that you support local business owners,” one said.
To offset top-line revenue losses, newspaper executives are:
- Aggressively reducing expenses by cutting page counts, single-copy circulation, eliminating TMC products and reducing publication day(s).
- Creatively reducing payroll expenses by a mix of furloughs, hourly reductions, and some permanent layoffs.
- Quickly applying for SBA loans or other forms of government financial assistance – 85% of respondents said they had applied or plan to apply.
- Beginning a marked industry-wide transition from free on-line local news to digital paywalls.
The coronavirus crisis is accelerating newspaper executives’ plans to “right-size” staffing, capture more digital revenue, and transition to subscription-based revenue models.
The Cribb, Greene & Cope team wants to thank all participants in our coronavirus survey. Here are the individual results of the survey: