Strategic Planning at the Chronicle Gazette

  1. Introduction

Every business need to pay attention to the rapid pace of change in the current era. The main concern for most businesses is on coping with the inevitable changes. The publishing industry is one of the industries that has been greatly destabilized by the internet revolution. This has affected different players including textbook, trade book, newspaper, and magazine publishers. The revenue in the industry has greatly reduced and the situation is likely to drive some of these companies out of business. The challenge is that the information they formerly controlled and which gave them a competitive advantage is now accessed to the public at no cost. 

One of the affected publishing companies is the Chronicle Gazette, which had been among the leading newspapers in a major urban area. The newspaper previously enjoyed circulation to 225,000 customers with many of its writers winning awards for their articles. The publisher at Chronicle Gazette is experiencing a problem due to a steady reduction in the subscriptions to the newspaper. It has been indicated that over the last eight years, the subscriptions have reduced by approximately 35% while advertising revenues have dropped by approximately 28% (Mitchell, Jurkowitz, & Guskin, 2013). This problem has hit the entire printing industry with other industry players such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal experiencing similar reductions in subscriptions.

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The internet has been the main undoing for the problems at The Chronicle Gazette. The internet has lead to a reduction on the need of people to acquire a physical newspaper. Through the internet, people have free access to endless sources of news. The internet provides option for learning about breaking news as soon as the occur and also an option of filtering the specific news section in which one is interested. 

The aim of this report is to provide the management at The Chronicle Gazette with strategic vision of the current position of the newspaper industry and the direction that it is likely headed in the future. Part of the report will include making proposals of the strategies that the company can deeply seek to gain an understanding in order for it to survive in the new business environment. The strategic plan produced will act as a roadmap for the management team at The Chronicles of the best path that the company should follow. 

  1. State of Newspaper Publishing Industry

2.1 Data on Declining Circulation and Revenue

Newspapers, which form an integral part of the America’s news landscape, have been largely affected by the upcoming trends where Americans consume news digitally. On this note, the industry’s financial fortune and the subscriber base has been on the decline from the early 2000s. This has happened despite the increase experienced in their website audience traffic. This drop has even affected the papers published on a weekly basis. 

It was approximated that the total US Daily newspaper in circulation both in print and digitally in 2016 was 35 million on a weekday and 38 million on a Sunday. This is an 8% reduction from the previous year (Mitchell, Jurkowitz, & Guskin, 2013). Hardest hit by the declines were the print newspaper circulation where the weekly print circulation reduced by 10% and the Sunday circulation by 9%. Reporting of the digital circulation has proved to be difficult with the three highest-circulation daily newspaper in the US, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post being unable to fully report their digital circulation to the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).

The total advertising revenue for the newspaper industry was noted to reduce by 6.8% for the year 2012. This marked a decline on the print side for the seventh year in row. The print ad revenue was noted to be 8.5%, equivalent to $1.8 billion. This reduction is being experienced despite the economy experiencing slow improvement. The level of the print advertising is only 41% of what the levels were in 2006. Digital ad revenue on the other hand, has experienced an anemic rate for the last two years with a 3.8% increase in 2012 (Mitchell, Jurkowitz, & Guskin, 2013). This level accounted for only 15% of all newspaper revenue. In 2012, it could be deduced that for every digital ad gained, 15 ad dollars were lost in print newspaper. This ration was much worse in relation to 2011 where 10-print ad dollar were lost for every one-ad dollar gained in digital marketing (Mitchell, Jurkowitz, & Guskin, 2013).

2.2 Status of Newspaper Leaders

USA Today topped the popularity chart with a daily circulation of over 2.2 million copies (Mitchell et al., 2013). This is a national newspaper well known for its easy-to-read content and visually focused layout, which are the main reasons for the numbers. The newspaper offers news categorized as news, money, sports, and life. The Wall Street Journal has about 2,070,498 papers in the daily circulation (Mitchell et al., 2013). This international paper deals in business and financial news. The paper is structured into an image-coupled format with a written narration. It is about 50-96 pages for every issue and offers its readers up-to-date information on the economy, business, and national and international financial news. The New York Times has about 1.1 million newspapers on daily circulation (Mitchell et al., 2013). The flagship paper has three sections including news, opinion, and features. It offers a balance by including images on most of its articles as compared to the layout of the Wall Street Journal, which is wordier and visual for the USA Today (Leurdijk, 2012). 

  1. Why Newspapers are facing a Decline Circulation and Revenues

The threat to the newspaper is seemingly originating from early indicators. An important consideration into the factors causing the decline in circulation and revenues involved the analysis of the external environment in the newspaper industry. Economic, social, cultural, demographic, environmental, political, government and legal, technological, and competitive factor evaluation will be considered. 

  1. External Assessment
    1. Economic Forces

The newspaper industry has experienced problems since the beginning of the Great Economic Recession. In the wake of the global financial crisis, the newspaper industry faced a sharp decline in advertising revenues. Devenson (2009) indicated that the newspaper industry sourced its income from two major sources – subscription from readers and advertisements. These two income sources have been affected by the economic downturn in terms of circulation and revenue levels. This has seen some newspapers increase their prices in an effort to compensate for declines in economic performance. One such company is the Chicago Tribune that increased the cost of the non-Sunday copy by 33% to $1 for every home-delivery made. Chicago Sun Times increased its prices from 50 cents to 75 cents. The challenges from the economic factors have resulted in a decline in the capacity of daily circulation and revenue sources. 

  1. Social, Cultural, Demographics, and Environmental Factors

The size of household has a strong influence in the circulation of the copies of the newspapers especially for the types of publication that stay for a longer period. The increase in the percentage of smaller households has been associated with the long-term decline in circulation figures. In terms of demographic factors, changes in the population have affected the circulation and readership of some newspapers. One important element is that the national population growth is not always evenly distributed across various ages. In this case, it was noted that the population growth for age group 15-24 increased by 12%, for 25-34 by 16%, 35-44 by 10.12%, 45-54 by 10.70% and 55-64 by 25%. The increase in the ages between 25-44 points to a potential increase in the number of readers for youth-oriented content. The increased number of senior citizens has created new opportunities for publishers. The aged population tends to live in smaller household which ends up generating less demand for newspaper copies. Some social factors that have been attributed to the declining circulation and revenue include the rising affluence of the population and the tendency towards greater discretionary spending where a reduction in these two causes less demand for newspapers.

  1. Political, Governmental, and Legal Forces

Some observers have noted that the problems in the newspaper industry are contributed by civic factors. A crucial factor is the government interference in operations and management of the industry. This was evident after the Cincinnati Post ceased to operate in 2007 which lead to reduced number of candidate that had previously been covered by newspaper. This increased the possibility of the incumbents of winning. It is also noted that mainstream newspaper serves civic societies that tend to be defined by geographic and political boundaries. It has been argued that this categorization has reduced the demand for newspapers (Kirchhoff, 2010). The governments are known to contribute to the decline in the performance of newspaper through the regulation process. The political factors that affects the performance of the newspaper include policies and regulations on media ownerships and concentration, financial mechanism conflict of interest between freedom of press, economic pressures, and the traditional methods of political intervention (Guyot, 2008).

  1. Technological Forces

The general performance in the newspaper industry has been affected by the advances in the development of technology in radio, television cable, and internet. This has contributed to changing behavior of its customers, readers and advertisers who are the major contributors to the revenue to the industry. The internet is the single source of technology innovation that has had a large negative effect to the circulation and revenues to the industry. The internet, including the social media platforms, has offered a better alternative for the audience to acquire news. This has seen the advertisers shift to the internet that offers lower costs and possibility of reach wider market. 

  1. Competitive forces

Competitive forces in an industry determines the level of economic profits. The returns to the industry attracts new entrants in the market which increases the level of competition. Publishing firms are likely to leave the industry if the profits are unable to cover for the costs. The entry to the industry is complicated due to large initial capital required in relation to the profits to be derived from the operations. Another factor to consider is the effect of substitutes. In this case, other sources of news and information such radio, TV, and internet are taking the market share from the newspaper industry thereby contributing to the decline in the newspaper circulation and revenues (Leurdijk, Slot, & Nieuwenhuis, 2012). 

  1. External Factor Evaluation (EFE) Matrix

The external Factor Evaluation (EFE) matrix is helpful to strategist in providing summary and assess the economic, socio-cultural, demographic, political, legal, technological and competitive details (David, 2006). 

Key FactorsWeight RatingWeighted score
Opportunities
Internet10%20.2
Technology innovation15%10.0225
Area of news coverage5%30.15
Government intervention5%30.15
Threats
Poor economic performance 15%20.3
Increased competition 15%$10.0225
Public perception10%10.1
internet10%20.2
People’s willingness5%10.0025
Indirect competition 10%20.2
Total100%1.3475

From the matrix it can observed that the overall ability of the newspaper company in dealing with different opportunities and threats in the external environment is poor. 

  1. Internal Assessment
    1. Organizational Processes and Structure

The Chronicle Gazette is structured into functional units. Susan Feinman is in charge of the innovative process in the organization. In this structure, people are more likely to be concerned with the performance at their personal departments which may be a major source of conflict. It can be noted that that the Chronicle Gazette has been unable to exploit the technological advantages as compared to its peers. In this organization, the executive committee acts as the main decision-making component of the company.

  1. HR capabilities

The Chronicle Gazette maintains a highly talented team. This can be deduced from the numerous awards that its writers get. This implies that the organization has an effective HR processing capability that has enabled it have a team geared towards excellence.

  1. Financial Position

The company has a large market base within the metropolitan area where it serves approximately 225,000 customers. This is a major source of the company’s income. However, the drastic reduction in the level of these subscription poses a threat to the success of the newspaper financial performance. 

  1. Marketing/Sales Capabilities

Chronicle Gazette uses print media as the only channel of reaching out to its customers. Through this channel the company has managed to create a strong bond and relationship with over two million customers who have still remained loyal to the company.

  1. Operational capabilities 

The company has accumulated skills and experience required in terms of the process, procedures and aspects of operations in the newspaper industry. The accumulated synergy from these aspects is likely to help the company in its drive to intensify contents to be at par with other players currently offering similar services across internet-based platforms. The company has not explored new forms of subscriptions that would help reach out to more customers. 

  1. Strengths and weaknesses as a publisher

Based on the current customer base, it is clear that Chronicle Gazette still runs a command in the market share. This company is thereby well positioned for cement its position by exploring into new methods of satisfying the customer base. The company also has strength based on the capability and qualifications of its writers and editors who have contributed to the success of the newspaper and indicated by the numerous awards accorded to its writers. An inherent weakness at The Chronicle Gazette is the lack of diversification into new forms of media. The company fails to utilize the internet to it full potential making it struggle to maintain its customers base amid the wave of the internet proliferation.

  1. How Companies in the Publishing Industry are Adjusting their strategies to Cope with Challenges
    1. Diversification

This involves seeking different methods and products to reach out to the customers. This includes moving to understanding the changing social, demographic, and cultural factors which contribute to changing customers needs and preferences. To address these needs newspaper industries are seeking new methods to help attain them. Such methods may include but not limited to; use of online platforms, social media platforms and mobile based apps. This is an effective way of reaching out to customers in different spheres. Other diversifying methods include outsourcing of non-essential functions.

  1. Integration of Technology

The newspaper companies have learned to tap into the power of advancements of technology. This include the provision of content in a format that is compatible with the present technological gadgets such as smart phones, mobile phones and tablets. These gadgets have become embedded to the lives of the people. These personalized gadgets are able to connect to internet to access news articles. Companies are using the advanced technology to offer personalized experience to the clients. This represents an effective way that companies in the industries are using to address the changes in the social and demographic aspects of the customers

  1. Focusing on the Needs of the Customer

While the subscription and revenues for the newspapers companies have been on the decline, the customers’ propensity to consume news has not reduced. The realization of this fact has made the newspaper industries seek customer-oriented alternatives of relaying the news. This also comes with the realization that adverts can do even better on the digital platforms especially due to the possibility of measuring its impact thereby determine the effectiveness.

  1. Steps be taken by The Chronicle Gazette
    1. Short-term Steps
      1. Comprehensive Internal Assessment

The Chronicle Gazette should carry out a comprehensive internal analysis to establish its capabilities and potential that can help it out in achieving the quest of being a prominent newspaper publisher in the country. Such an analysis could seek to gain an understanding into why the company is experiencing drastic reduction in the number of customers. This will be essential in informing the management in coming up with the next move for the company.

  1. Developing of an Integrated Strategy

These strategies will indicate a pathway of how the company can integrate the digital media to the print media. This will involve analysis of the different customer segments to understand platform best suited for different groups. Some digital strategies might include development of customer responsive website and mobile application, and personalized user experience across the digital platforms

  1. Long-term Needs

In the long-term the company needs to actualize the recommendations offered from the comprehensive company analysis. It will also be important to actualize the strategy of incorporating the digital programs into its core operations. This might require instituting a department dealing with online content for the company. This will be relevant in delivering the news right into the pockets of the customers though their mobile gadget. Following the recent demand by consumers for getting verifiable news, the company can use its already credibility to assure the online clientele base of reliability of the news items thus an offer a solution to their menace of fake news. The Chronicle Gazette should not let advances in technology kick it out of the market but should rather seek to identify its niche and continue serving it in a manner that incorporate the new technologies.

References

David, F 2006, Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, 10th edn

Deveson, M 2009, Crisis in the US Newspaper Industry,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (accessed May 12, 2010) 

Guyot, J. (2008). Political-economic factors shaping news culture. In Making the News (pp. 100-117). Routledge.

Kirchhoff, S. M. (2010). US newspaper industry in transition. DIANE Publishing.

Leurdijk, A., Slot, M., & Nieuwenhuis, O. (2012). Statistical, Ecosystems, and Competitiveness Analysis of the Media and Content Industries. Joint Research Center.Mitchell, A., Jurkowitz, M., & Guskin, E. (2013). The Newspaper Industry Overall. Pew Research Center, Journalism and Media.

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