Faced with stiff competition in an increasingly technologically advanced world, media houses are forced to innovate ways to maintain their audience and boost profit. But with the advent of the Internet, this dilemma has posed a greater challenge to print media. This was one of the core issues brought to the fore at the International Press Institute (IPI) World Congress at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. Ryan Blethen, director of new product strategies of the Seattle Times in the US, however, said no new business model to boost circulation could be sustained unless media houses invest in good journalism.
The Seattle Times was a family business, which began publishing in 1896, and over the years more colour was added to the paper and its size was decreased to attract more readers. “When we first started out there were ten to 12 newspapers in Seattle. Now we are the only newspaper in Seattle,” he added. Blethen said it was easy for a company to become complacent when, over the years, it was making a profit. Saying the Seattle Times was constantly pushing itself to become a modern media company, Blethen added: “We, like the rest of the newspapers, kept scratching our heads to figure it out.”
He said there was still heavy reliance on the old model, such as advertising discounts, coupled with giveaways, including low-grade subscription. He added: “When the web came along, the feeling was we can grow our audience even more because we are still making money off of advertising, so we were going to make more off online advertising too. Looking back, that isn’t so much the case. “We’re making some money—but it’s not going to save the ship.” He said while there were efforts across the US to increase readership, even via digital media, there must be a good foundation. He added: “All of this must be built on a foundation of really good, solid journalism…that’s what people are paying for. “There is no business model unless you invest in good journalism.”