Industry News

Not quite at ‘swagger,’ but survey finds publishers steadily gaining confidence

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In his presentations to industry gatherings over the past year or so, sales guru Mike Blinder frequently exclaims that newspapers need to “get our swagger back.”

The results of the Fall 2017 Publisher Confidence Survey conducted by the brokerage Cribb, Greene & Cope suggest that if publishers are not yet exactly swaggering—they’ve got a certain spring in their step now.

More than 80% of the responding newspaper executives expect their bottom line to be up in 2018 (45%) or be about the same (36%). And they express that confidence even as 35% say they expect advertising revenue to be down in the coming year.

Publishers continue to set rather modest goals for their digital advertising revenue, with the majority—55%--saying their goal for 2018 is to have digital make up 10% or less of total advertising revenue. Thirty-six percent said they are setting a target of 10% to 20%; 9%

The target for digital advertising as a percentage of total advertising has a clear majority of 55% indicating that 0-10% is the goal. Thirty-six percent feel the target is 10-20% of revenue. Just 7% expect digital to make up as much as 30% of total ad revenue and only 2% shooting for a share above 30%.

Publishers are feeling pretty good about their local economy as well, with 39% saying it’s improving, up from 36% in 2016, and 43% estimating that it’s staying about the same. Just 18% see their local economy as in decline.

Responding executives also expressed confidence in the long-term future of newspapers, with 54% saying they would consider purchasing a newspaper in the current climate. That’s down slightly from last year’s survey, but a big step up from five years ago when 54% said flatly they wouldn’t consider expanding their newspaper portfolio.

And fully two-thirds of the publishers said they either would or might recommend their children pursue a newspaper career.

The survey of 124 publishers or key executives included 71% of respondents who own daily or daily/weekly newspapers and 29% whose properties were primarily weeklies.