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Developing Morris Publishing Group's all-access pricing strategy

Developing Morris Publishing Group's all-access pricing strategy

The last few years have certainly been no walk in the park for those of us in the newspaper business.  Print advertising revenue has dropped by nearly half since the peak in 2005.  Digital advertising has grown, but not fast enough to offset the print declines.

The loss in revenue forced us to make difficult adjustments to our costs, including our labor force.

The past year has been no different.

In 2011, Morris Publishing Group has worked hard to get ahead of the curve.  Anticipating more declines in our print business next year, we proactively reduced cost across our operations.  We will continue to aggressively seek ways to operate more efficiently – smart businesses always do – however, 2012 will be a year to focus on reversing this revenue trend.

Where are our best opportunities?

As a Digital First media company, digital advertising, promotions and services are clearly a huge opportunity for us.  Local spending in these categories will keep growing rapidly in the next few years, and we must exceed this growth rate in our markets. One of our goals for 2012 is to offset at least half our print advertising declines with digital gains.

Another huge opportunity is consumer-generated revenue.  Today, nearly all of our consumer based revenue comes from printed newspaper subscriptions and newsstand sales, and this accounts for roughly 25 percent of our company’s total revenue.  We have collaborated at times, but each of our markets has primarily developed its own circulation pricing strategy.  In Augusta and Lubbock we have also tested online subscription models, with limited success.

Up to this point, Morris Publishing Group has not developed a comprehensive print/digital all-access subscription strategy but that's about to change.  Heading into 2012, we are making this a top priority.  To that end, we have launched a Consumer Pricing Task Force, led by VP of Operations, Mark Nusbaum.  This task force will include participants from corporate and across our markets, who will develop a company-wide strategy to maximize revenue from our published content.

The outcome of our strategy will be that consumers will pay a larger share of the cost to generate content, making our news and information centers less dependent upon advertising support and give us the ability to increase the quality of our content.

We are not alone in this effort.  Some companies have developed all-access pricing strategies which have significantly grown revenue, while others are developing theirs now. This article from Poynter explains nine reasons why. Here’s another great article by Ken Doctor that discusses the concept of all-access as well as other fascinating changes in the news/information landscape in 2011.

We have many projects on our plate in 2012, but none more important than the Consumer Pricing Task Force.  We plan to have our strategy built and in place by early next year. One of our stated goals is to turn Morris Publishing Group from contraction to growth, and this project will certainly play a big part in that effort.

Stay tuned.

Derek