February 18, 2010

Amidst Drop In Print Journalism Sales, Gannett Sees Quarterly Profit

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Amidst large-scale losses for newspapers across the country, Gannett Company –– named after founder Frank Gannett 1898, who is also the namesake for the University’s Health Services –– announced on Feb. 1 that it has turned a profit for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2009. The company currently publishes 84 daily newspapers, including The Ithaca Journal, as well as 850 non-daily publications, according to its website.

According to a release by Craig A. Dubow, the company’s chief executive officer, Gannett earned $133.6 million in the fourth quarter, beating the estimates of Wall Street analysts. Only a year ago, Gannett had incurred a loss of $4.71 billion.

Recent studies have depicted a generational shift away from print journalism. In a research article published by the Pew Research Center last year, nearly one-third of all American newspaper readers in 2008 read the paper online. Two years earlier, online readers only represented about 25 percent of newspaper readers.

“I prefer the Internet because there’s a lot more access to information,” John Boyle ’13 said.

Dubow attributed Gannett’s success to its renewed focus on content, cost restructuring and sales over the past year. The refocusing forms the backbone of a new initiative that the newspaper conglomerate launched last year –– called ContentOne –– “to enhance and improve the way Gannett gathers and delivers the news and information customers want,” according to the company’s website. Dubow expected ContentOne to be the center of Gannett’s coverage efforts in the coming year, which has already aided the corporation in their Haiti coverage.

Gannett’s positive fourth-quarter earnings, however, are also the result of massive downsizing. An article in The New York Times last August reported that Gannett cut 70 jobs at the Journal News, one of its subsidiaries in the lower Hudson Valley area. During the previous month, the parent company announced that it would cut severance pay and instead only provide supplemental unemployment benefits for its laid-off employees, thus shifting the attendant financial burden from the corporation onto the states.

Other companies in the print journalism industry, such as The New York Times Company, have also been forced to increase lay-offs to improve efficiency and profitability. Last year, The Ithaca Journal was forced to make job cuts, while the Rocky Mountain News –– a daily newspaper in Colorado –– had to stop printing due to circulation and advertising problems, according to its website.

Prof. Tarleton Gillespie, communication, explained that the recession is only part of the problem. Although a majority of newspaper readers still rely on print journalism, the balance between print and online journalism is changing rapidly in favor of the latter.

“If print journalism is to survive, it must find a way to cohabitate with online journalism,” Gillespie said.

“I prefer the Internet because it’s more convenient for me to read the news. I don’t want to carry the newspaper around when I usually have my computer right in front of me,”Ze Zhou ’11 said.

Another challenge facing the print journalism industry is the advent of new and improved technology, such as the iPhone, that makes access to the news available on-the-go –– something that printed papers believed was an advantage they held over online journalism only a few years ago. Yet despite the generational preference for Internet coverage, many students still value print journalism, especially for local stories.

“I think the Internet has more access to a variety of information, but I think print journalism is better for local news and opinions,” Kyle Wolpert ’10 said.

Some, like Annie Bass ’12, personally prefer to read the news in print newspapers.

“I read online sources, but I enjoy print sources more. [Reading print sources] is more of a leisure activity, and in consequence I read less online,” Bass said.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh, editor-in-chief of The Ithacan, which covers the Ithaca College community, believes that neither the recession nor the national decline in readership will have a significant impact on college print journalism. The Ithacan saw an increase in the number of paid subscriptions this year, Hollenbaugh said.

Others are less sure about the future of print journalism. According to Zhou, the future of print journalism will probably depend on technological advantages. Zhou said that as technology improves, more people would utilize it for the news, instead of relying on print journalism.

Perhaps the most important aspect of print journalism is what Gillespie and Wolpert both called its “symbolic value.”

Boyle said that even if the number of consumers of online journalism ultimately surpasses that of print journalism, there will always be a place for newspapers in the United States.

Original Author: Byungkwan Park