April 8, 2014 – What is the future of the newspaper industry? Brian McGrory, editor of The Boston Globe, offered key insights and predictions at the Shorenstein Center on Tuesday. While the news business has changed dramatically in recent years, there are positive signs for the future, he said.
McGrory started off by admitting that he has “absolutely no idea” what the future of newspapers will be, but he added that “anyone who tells you they know is either lying to themselves or lying to you.” In 2005–06, the newspaper industry enjoyed its most profitable era, McGrory recalled, with millions of dollars in advertising revenue pouring in.
Yet in 2008–09, The New York Times’ stock fell, and by 2012, revenue was less than half of what it was six years earlier. “It is a swift moving tide that has affected this industry,” McGrory said, “so to try to predict where it will be five years from now is foolish.”
However, McGrory also added that while “circulation has plummeted,” the number of online readers is promising. Even on a slow news day, he said, there are “more readers of Boston Globe journalism now than we have ever had in the history of the paper.” This means that while the “business model is definitely broken…the journalism model is not.”
In finding a business model that works, McGrory warned against running “from one end of spectrum to other” between digital and print. “We need a balance,” he said, and added that while digital models are an important part of the future, “more than three-quarters of our revenue still comes from print.”
Boston without the Globe would be a “scary place,” McGrory noted. He wants the Globe to be “a paper of interest as well as the paper of record” in Boston. To make the paper more enjoyable and interesting to its readers, they are focusing on “telling stories in different ways, doubling down on investigative reporting, and…trying out new elements of the paper that might appeal to advertisers.” Ultimately, he said, “quality and a greater spirit of entrepreneurship is what will help us grind out of this downturn.”
Article and photo by Janell Sims, Shorenstein Center.