The Newspaper Association of America is bowing to reality with a new name that drops a longstanding part of its heritage – specifically, the name of the medium it was printed on.
This week the newspaper publishing’s official industry organization announced it is ditching the old moniker for a new one, the News Media Alliance, reflecting the shift to digital, multichannel distribution.
In an emailed statement, NMA CEO David Chavern explained: “The name change doesn't reflect any diminishment of newspaper as a central way for people to get information but, instead, indicates just how many new ways our members are delivering journalism to their communities. The bottom line is that people consume more news than ever — in all forms — and that is the basis for a vibrant and growing news media industry.”
While you might not guess it from the industry’s well-reported financial woes, newspapers are reaching more people than ever, thanks in large part to the transition to digital media.
According to comScore figures cited by the NAA previously, last year newspapers reached 179.3 million people in August 2015 alone, accounting for 69% of the U.S. Internet population.
But these impressive audience figures only underline the challenges facing newspapers on the business side, as print ad dollars continue to plummet and digital ad dollars aren’t growing nearly fast enough to replace them. Per figures previously released by the Census, total U.S. newspaper publishing revenues including advertising and circulation fell 4.4% from $6.51 billion in the first quarter of 2015 to $6.22 billion in the first quarter of 2016.
The first-quarter declines come atop similar percentage declines in total annual revenues last year, also per the Census. Newspaper publishers saw total revenues fall 3.8% from $28.1 billion in 2014 to $27 billion in 2015. According to separate figures from Pew Research, U.S. newspaper publishers’ digital ad revenues also decreased 2% last year.
Thus, the NMA faces a number of urgent new missions, including growing newspapers’ digital ad business to match their massive online reach, and helping its members persuade readers to buy digital subscriptions while dissuading them from using ad blockers.
While a new name obviously can’t solve t hese problems, it’s a recognition of the realities shaping the industry in future.