NNA virtual conference leads newspaper industry

Sep 1, 2020

President & CEO | Our-Hometown.com

The National Newspaper Association has taken the lead in our industry to develop one of the first virtual newspaper conferences to be held entirely online. Our Hometown is thrilled to be invited to speak on several flash sessions, during which we’ll focus on the digital solutions that we‘ve helped our publisher partners develop and execute.

The COVID shutdown has accelerated many of the trends we’ve witnessed in the newspaper industry for the last 20 years. Let’s break down each of these trends and highlight the NNA flash sessions that will focus on their solutions.

1. The decline of print revenue.

The shutdown of the world economy hit every publisher on their bottom line. Many were faced with overnight suspension of the entire print side of their business. That advertising revenue went away, and many subscribers were expecting to still access their subscription online.

Our customer Cecile Wehrman, publisher of The Journal and Tioga Tribune, was one of the first publishers to recognize the impact COVID would have on print revenue. We quickly adapted her paywall and donation strategy, while she continues to develop new tactics for increasing subscriptions. I will be interviewing Cecile LIVE as part of our session, “Rethinking Paywalls (for paid print newspapers)”.

Another publisher using Our Hometown’s WordPress platform is Tom Lappas of the Henrico Citizen. Tom suspended print during the shutdown and adapted by shifting focus to his digital advertising packages, which span all digital platforms the Citizen appears on. I’ll be interviewing Tom during our session on “Donation Strategies During Shutdown”, where we will discuss his innovative “advertising donation program” that benefits both local non-profits and the Citizen.

2. Increasing preference for readers to access news via digital, especially mobile.

Another trend that accelerated during the shutdown was more newspaper readers going online to get local news. In some cases this was because they physically could not get the print edition; in others, they simply preferred the real–time updates they got from the digital edition. Much of this audience will never return to the print edition. After discovering how easy it is to access the news from any device, why would they? This is a problem for free print newspapers unless they quickly adapt their digital business model away from print advertising and toward building reader revenue. In the second session on “Rethinking Paywalls (for free print newspapers)”, we’ll dig into some of the paywall models that free newspapers are using to monetize the news on our platform.

3. The decentralization of news production into cloud-based workflows.

When businesses were first shut down and employees started working from home, many of us saw this as a temporary measure. However, regardless of the pandemic’s course going forward, many businesses will never return to the old way of doing work.

Some of the more innovative publishers have recognized that by shifting their prepress composition to the website content management system, they could eliminate the need to update the website after print was completed. Meg Norris, editor and publisher at five weekly papers on Long Island, was one of the first publishers to embrace a digital-first workflow on Our Hometown’s WordPress platform. I’ll be interviewing Meg on her process during the session on “Reverse Publishing from Website to InDesign”.

4. Newspapers are branching out into video and audio to capture a larger audience.

The COVID shutdown has resulted in the unprecedented adoption of virtual collaboration tools for remote work, specifically Zoom and other video sharing software. This means that any meeting, conference or interview that normally would have taken place in person can now easily be captured on video with the click of a button. In our session, “How to Produce High Yield Content with Video Interviews”, I will break down our process for creating five pieces of multimedia content from a single virtual interview. This is not a theoretical presentation. The focus will be on the exact steps that Our Hometown’s marketing team follows to transform a live publisher interview into a video highlight playlist, audio podcast, blog post and a newsletter.

There are dozens of other sessions from terrific speakers on the agenda.

I hope you will all join us for the first NNA virtual conference, October 1-3.

Matt Larson is the president and CEO of Our-Hometown.com. mcl@our-hometown.com See Page 12 for the convention program.