Instead of cutting back at such a crucial time, newspapers need to be investing in their future. As Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism (which, like CJR Daily, is affiliated with the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism) argues, “There is tons of academic research, most of which publishers do not know … that reveals clearly that if you are willing to invest in improving your product by pouring more money in the newsroom and sacrificing profit for a year or two, that over the course of six or seven years, you can not only increase circulation, but you can also increase profit, and also how much you are able to charge for your advertising. The problem is you have to be willing to make that investment and sacrifice your profits initially.”
The shift to online readership makes this even more urgent. While their advertising revenue is still mostly in print, more and more of it will be going online — making the indispensability of what they offer at their news sites all the more important. And instead of simply trying to transfer their print product online, Rosenstiel says, newspapers need to create something new: “We’ve got to actually invest a lot more than we are now, at a time when it’s not going to pay for itself, so that consumers will say, ‘Wow, this is so valuable, I’m willing to pay for it. It’s different, better, richer than it is in print.’”
And only a recommitment to local news will get our papers there.