By David Bradley
Those lazy, hazy days that fill our Missouri summer have passed by too quickly. It’s time to pull out all the stops in the 4th quarter to rescue an anemic financial year for many newspaper companies.
In case you need reinforcement, the Missouri Press Association annual convention in St. Louis Sept. 6-8 will provide you some great tools to salvage your bottom line. The trip will pay for itself many times over. Besides, you’ll make some new friends, reacquaint with old ones and have some fun.
One by-law change that will be voted on at MPA’s Sept. 7 business meeting will be a new membership category for online newspapers. Your MPA Board is bringing the matter before the full membership after discussing the issue for several years. New online members will be required to originate general information and not serve a special interest.
I believe the new member class will enhance our status as a multi-platform organization.
Meanwhile, the newspaper industry made some progress in Washington, D.C., in August with the proposed Free Flow of Information Act. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved the bill to provide federal protection for the confidential sources of journalists. The Senate awaits action on a similar bill. Missouri needs to pass similar legislation to protect sources at the state level. We didn’t have debate on the issue on the Senate floor last session after the House passed it 147-5 and a Senate committee passed it 7-1. My hometown senator, Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), left me with a little egg on my face when he couldn’t find time to bring it to the floor of the upper chamber. We’ll try again next session.
—At our June meeting, your board approved the creation of a searchable website for public notices that are published in Missouri newspapers. GeoTel/Newzgroup of Columbia is producing the site for a $2,000 startup fee and for $1,700 a month to scan the notices and maintain the site. Notices will be scanned from MPA-member newspapers that are sent to the MPA office in Columbia.
This dual platform – in print and online – will ensure that notices remain matters of record in our newspapers.
Also, the reach of these notices will be extended to readers preferring to see them on their computers. The notices can’t be manipulated in their print version and will meet the needs of the online audience.
— When planning next year’s budget, be sure to give close attention to the price of newsprint. While prices have dropped 10 percent in 2007, don’t plan on that decline to continue next year. A big factor will be the merger of the two largest North American newsprint suppliers, Abitibi and Bowater. That transaction is expected to receive federal and international approval by the end of September. Together those behemoths will control 60 percent of the newsprint sold on the continent. You can rest assured the new company will try to reverse the price decreases they swallowed separately this year.
—Finally, the political season is heading toward us faster than usual this year because of earlier presidential primaries. Take advantage of every chance you get to preach that newspaper advertising will be the “secret weapon” of 2008.
Just have your local spin doctor read the Wall Street Journal article dated July 26, 2007, and reprinted in the Aug. 9 MPA Bulletin (accessible on mopress.com). The article quoted several political consultants who said newspapers are staging a comeback on influencing voters. And we have an answer for politicians who want to reach the younger demographics — use our online editions.