I’m delighted by the news that Journal Register’s John Paton is spreading the digital first gospel (I’m a believer). He announced today that through a new company — Digital First Media — he will take over management of MediaNews, a much bigger newspaper company, and bring the methods used and lessons learned at JRC (and before that at ImpreMedia) to more papers.
I’m honored to be on JRC’s advisory board, along with Jay Rosen and Emily Bell.
In Paton’s blog post making the announcement, his message is that old dogs can be taught new tricks: newspapers can change and, we hope, survive. Said Paton:
Since implementing our Digital First strategy in mid 2010 our Digital audience has doubled to more than 12.3 million uniques and our entire audience has grown from 14.9 million monthly customers on all platforms to nearly 21 million customers. . . .
In Q2 of this year, 10 of JRC’s 18 dailies are up year over year in advertising or within 2% of last year’s ad revenues because of digital advertising growth. JRC newspaper digital revenue grew more than 81% year over year in Q2. That’s against an industry average of less than 10%.
Digital dimes can replace Print dollars.
And if our dailies continue on the trend they are on right now, by the end of the year they will have brought in more digital revenue than the costs of running their newsrooms.
Digital revenues can pay for newspaper newsrooms.
This is all I’ve ever wanted for the newspaper industry: brave innovation and dogged determination to update and upgrade, not hold onto the past.
What does Digital First really mean? To me, it means that digital is the future and the goal is to get there. It means that the journalists think first of serving their (larger) audience online. It means that advertisers’ digital strategies must be served. It means finding efficiencies thanks to online: consolidating repetitive work to put precious resources where they add the most value: in local reporting and sales. It means changing the relationship of a news organization to the public it serves, becoming more collaborative, working in networks, recognizing the ecosystem around us. It means that papers will stick around as long as they are helpful and profitable (which could be a long time or not … we’ll see). But it means mostly that Paton is growing a digital company as every news company must.
I’m rooting for him and am delighted that he can now bring his good ideas and experience to such papers as the San Jose Mercury and the Denver Post and provide an example to others as well.