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One-Minute MarketerThere’s Good News and Bad News for Newspapers

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There’s Good News and Bad News for Newspapers

COVID-19 is big news. From incredible increases in Google searches to TV news ratings, the pandemic is driving high interest in news outlets.Benjamin Franklin

For the New York Times, digital subscriptions topped 6 million. More than 600,000 new subscriptions were added as the pandemic swelled in importance. However, juxtapose those grand numbers against revenue drops of 30%, 50% to 75%. NYT estimates revenues could sink 55% in the second quarter. So eyeballs are way up and advertiser interest way down.

This unprecedented time could be catastrophic for the print newspaper industry. The Quad City Times (Lee Enterprises) decided not to produce and deliver a print paper on Memorial Day this year. With so little advertising, you may see others cancel low advertising days.

This reality is countered by a study by Pew last year that found more than 70% of respondents believe their local news organizations are doing well financially. The reality is this may be an extinction-level event for many newspapers.

What initiated this blog was an unsolicited thank-you note we received from the Des Moines Register for being a loyal news reader. (We do subscribe to a lot of newspapers. Last count was five.) I’d never received a thank-you from a newspaper that was not connected with a subscription renewal, so this was new to me. It made me think: It is time for some new thinking with newspapers.

Some news organizations may need to become nonprofits to survive. According to the 2019 Pew research, only 14% had contributed money to any local news source such as National Public Radio this past year. That means there is potential with the other 86%.

Not since British warned the Governor of Massachusetts in the 1699s, “Great inconvenience may arise by the liberty of printing,”  have our free-speech rights under the First Amendment  (even though the Bill of Rights would not be ratified until 1791) under so much pressure, and the Fourth Estate is going to need some help and a lot of creative thinking to survive.


Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.