Saturday, February 28, 2009
Steamboat Springs The timing of Thursday's announcement that the Rocky Mountain News would publish its final edition on Friday was, on some level, symbolic. This weekend is the annual Colorado Press Association convention, where hundreds of newspaper professionals from across the state gather to discuss the state of the industry.
The end of the Rocky - a day most knew would come in the wake of December's announcement that the paper was for sale - cast a somber mood across the convention. It also was a clear reminder of the immense struggles facing many newspapers, particularly metropolitan dailies. Print advertising revenue and readership continue to spiral downward for most metros. The gains being made in online advertising simply aren't enough to stop the bleeding.
The Rocky Mountain News won't be the only metro newspaper to shutter its doors in the coming months and years. The real loss will be for the people in the communities those newspapers cover. A newspaper's fundamental role is to be a watchdog of democracy, and I'm yet to see a person or business that can fulfill that essential purpose like a newspaper can.
Are newspapers imperfect? Yes.
Must we force ourselves to adapt and experiment and fail and try again? Absolutely.
But as Rocky Mountain News Editor and Publisher John Temple said during Friday's luncheon at the Brown Palace Hotel, the future of journalism is bright. It will be different - it must be different - than it exists today, but it will exist, and it will be better.
Temple struck an important chord when he reminded his audience that news still matters to people and that local news is of particular importance and relevance to our lives. I share his belief that that won't change.
Rethinking content models and generating new revenues are industry-wide challenges, but it's important to distinguish the Pilot & Today from the Rocky Mountain News and other struggling metro dailies.
Like so many other businesses in our community, the Pilot & Today has felt the impact of the struggling economy. Nonetheless, we remain a healthy and strong business. Our circulation and readership is increasing. We deliver 100 more newspapers a day now than we did at the same time last year. Our online readership is exploding - there are more than 6,000 user sessions on Steamboatpilot.com every day. Our Web site will host more than 2 million user sessions in 2009 and will see more than 10 million page views.
Our most recent readership survey showed that 99 percent of Routt County residents have read a print edition of the Steamboat Today in the past week. Eighty-one percent say the print edition of the paper is their primary source for local advertising. Next best? Word of mouth, at 8 percent.
None of this is to say we don't face challenges, and we'd be short-sighted and naÃive if we believed the status quo will sustain our business going forward. What the numbers do say is that we're important to you - our community - and that you value the news and information we provide.
In today's newspaper you'll also find a story recognizing the Pilot & Today's success in the Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters award contest. I'm extremely proud of the work produced by this newspaper's staff, mostly because it's important work for our community. Although I'm saddened at Colorado's loss in the closing of an excellent, longstanding publication, I'm pleased to be able to say the Steamboat Pilot & Today isn't going anywhere.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 970-871-4221.