When I landed my first job at a newspaper, our stories were typed into a computer and then printed. The columns were cut with scissors, run through a waxer, and then pasted onto “boards” on heavier paper — I think they were called “mechanicals.” This all happened in what was called the “composing room.”
Those pasted-up pages were then taken to a “camera room” where the metal plates were made and then sent out to the printing press to run off tens of thousands of copies.It really wasn’t that long ago (I promise), but so much has changed.
Leap forward to 2005 when CTNewsJunkie was founded. Facebook was still only for Harvard students — not widely available outside Ivy League schools or colleges in the Boston area. Twitter was still a year away from launch.
But since that time, those two social networks have become a big piece of our “circulation department” for our stories, along with our email newsletters. So not only has the delivery of news changed, but how our readers consume it has also changed. Some for the better and some for the worse.
This is a lot of disruption for any industry. And it was a big risk for me to bid adieu to a steady paycheck at a well-respected newspaper for a chance to see what the internet had to offer. It has been a roller coaster ride to say the least, and I could pretend that we have it all figured out — but we don’t.
We’ve experimented with a variety of revenue tools and delivery methods and the verdict is still out on which ones will be sustainable 10 years from now. In fact, some good ones have already come and gone, and still others that worked elsewhere weren’t a good fit for our market.
However, what I do know is that no matter how many times we fail with a new widget or revenue plan, reader support has always been crucial in sustaining us through the ups and downs of an industry that still hasn’t found its way.
There is some good news — the election led to some very public, very positive gains in paid subscriptions for some of the bigger newspapers that were fact-checking the whoppers that were blurted on campaign trail. But we’re not the NYTimes or the Washington Post, and neither one of those companies is going to cover your state legislature or your local school board.
Despite those highlights, the newspaper industry had a terrible year in 2015.
According to the Pew Research Center: “Weekday [newspaper] circulation experienced a decline not seen since the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. Average weekday circulation fell 7%, the most since 2010. This drop was due entirely to print circulation, which declined by 9%, while digital circulation increased by 2%. Sunday circulation, meanwhile, fell 4%, following a 3% decrease in 2014 . . . After 2009, circulation seemed to be cutting its losses, even showing a small increase in 2013. But after a decline of 3% in both weekday and Sunday in 2014, 2015 saw circulation fall even more rapidly.”
And newspaper advertising revenue was down 7.8% in 2015 after eight straight years of declines, including drops of 14.9% and 26.6% in 2008 and 2009.
The result of these declines is fewer reporters and editors. In other words, fewer watchdogs. Fewer investigations. Fewer people demanding answers and speaking truth to power. Journalism and democracy go hand-in-hand. Like peanut butter and jelly. Oreos and milk.
I’ve been in the news business for 17 years and I still have to pinch myself every morning because I am blessed to be able to continue to report on the state of Connecticut. There is no place else I would rather be.
You can help us maintain this effort. Join our team by becoming a subscriber at a level that works for you. Or consider adding your firm to our Directory. You won’t regret it.