It goes without saying that when The St Augustine Record was owned by Florida Publishing Company, they never got the concept of citizen journalism. But neither did their successor, Morris Communications — well, at least not until October 2, 2017, when they were forced to sell the newspaper. By then, Historic City News, St Augustine and St Johns County’s free press, was already seventeen years old.
- Print is dead.
It’s fair to say that the “old guard” at The St Augustine Record was as confused about Internet technology as they were about the importance of including their readers in the newsgathering process. Its also fair to say that, at least before Morris filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January of 2010, they were continuing to invest other people’s money in obsolete ink-and-newsprint communications. They amassed $482.4 million in debt and had only $175.5 million in assets.
To this day, the latest owner of The St Augustine Record and 145 other daily newspapers operated through its GateHouse division, New Media Investment Group Inc. is growing revenue — but not because of its newspaper business, according to CEO Michael Reed speaking in the company’s quarterly conference call last week.
Reed reported that New Media Investment Group reached $1.526 billion in revenue for 2018, a 13.7 percent increase, but “traditional print advertising” made up only 41 percent of it’s total revenue compared to 48 percent just two years ago in 2016.
- Consumers break the old habit of buying a newspaper.
With the Sunday paper costing $3.00, Reed admitted that declining circulation has negatively impacted the print newspaper business. Sunday circulation at The St. Augustine Record was down to 9,908 copies in 2018. The Florida Times-Union fared no better, taking a 21 percent drop, down to 46,988 copies in just one year.
Perhaps readers and advertisers recognized that they are paying more for less at the newspaper. Job sharing and consolidation appear to be one strategy, at least for GateHouse Media newspapers in Florida, according to an announcement September 7, 2018.
The St. Augustine Record publisher, Tony Bernados, was moved to Augusta and wasn’t replaced. The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville publisher retired, and The Daytona Beach News-Journal publisher has been re-named “group publisher”. Locally, we now have one-third of a newspaper publisher, Bill Offill. Does the lack of management show?
- Consumers did not go to the newspaper website.
According to the 2018 New Media Investment Group Inc. and GateHouse annual reports, the local newspaper websites showed a decline in traffic during the same period. The 2018 report showed that The St Augustine Record website, staugustine.com, lost one-third of its monthly page views last year; dropping from 1.5 million to 1.0 million. The Florida Times-Union lost a whopping 44% of its monthly page views; dropping from 10.4 million to about 5.8 million monthly page views in the same one-year period.
Wonder where they went? *chuckles*