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Home > News & Media > CEO Update > How 2013 showcased the bright future of the newspaper industry

How 2013 showcased the bright future of the newspaper industry

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For more from Caroline Little, follow @NAACEO on Twitter.

Caroline H. Little

December 2013

This has been an exciting year for the newspaper industry. I believe 2014 will be even better.

During a time when all media are transforming and experimenting with yet another wave of digital nuances and advanced technology, growth is something most businesses only hope to achieve. Despite the overstated newspaper cynics, our industry has seen growth in virtually all of our endeavors. Looking back at some of our biggest accomplishments throughout 2013, it is easy to look around and survey the tremendous successes in our industry.

As I told Fortune this summer: companies change with the times and newspapers are no different. Now, they are emerging in a strong position.

Our audience has grown with the shifting digital landscape, and we’re seeing increased levels of audience engagement and new avenues of consumption. We made the first gain in circulation revenue since 2003, with revenue rising by 5 percent – from $10 billion to $10.5 billion – as digital subscriptions grew dramatically.

The number of unique visitors engaged with U.S. newspaper digital content hit a new high in September 2013, totaling 141 million adults – an impressive increase of 11 percent since just June. We’ve changed with the times to fit the needs of our audience, from print to website to tablet to mobile, adapting our content and strategies for delivery. And it’s working. Across all digital platforms, 71 percent of adults in this country engage with newspaper content, and 55 percent of those visitors consume newspaper content on mobile devices.

Additionally, newspapers remain relevant to all ages. Despite the perception that millennials don’t turn to traditional outlets for news, studies show in fact that 56 percent read newspaper content in a given week.  We strongly believe this data illustrates why the demand and audience for newspaper-generated content will only continue to grow in 2014.

Another area of growth has come from investors. Newspapers are still seen as a worthwhile investment by renowned, innovative leaders with big ideas for expanding into a more competitive business model. Smart business people like Jeff Bezos, John Henry, and Warren Buffett invest in assets poised for a rebound, and we can only begin to imagine the successes they alone will bring to the table in 2014.

Not only have we seen new business leaders enter the newspaper industry, but there are more opportunities for diversified revenue streams and successful business strategies. Our research has revealed that the industry’s growth has sprouted from innovative practices, such as digital and print-digital bundled subscription rates.

At NAA, we have highlighted the achievements of member newspapers and the best practices for the industry through NAA.org, panels and conferences as well as through our foundation, the American Press Institute. Newspapers have become innovators in all facets of the industry, whether it’s being the ultimate holiday shopping guide for advertisers or pushing the boundaries for long-form journalism in print and online.

At NAA mediaXchange 2013, we had notable publishers, CEOs, and media analysts, like Barry Diller, Terry Lundgren, Katharine Weymouth and Rick Edmonds, to name a few, present and drive home new thinking and transformation. The 2014 conference in March will feature a similarly impressive lineup, with committed leaders from Walmart, BuzzFeed, Google, ESPN and Dell discussing the important topics that will shape our future.

As further proof of the innovation that permeates through newspapers, NAA mediaXchange 2014 will feature winning start-ups from our Accelerator Pitch program to showcase their big ideas to help newspaper companies’ print, digital, mobile, audience or advertising needs.

During this year of growth and innovation, we have also seen gains in the fight for our country’s right to a free press.

When news broke this May about the Justice Department’s unprecedented seizure of confidential telephone records, we spearheaded a coalition of more than 70 media companies and journalism organizations to enact a federal shield law that would protect journalists and their confidential sources while still allowing for effective law enforcement. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on September 12, and we are hopeful that the full Senate and House will take up the bill soon. We will continue working to that end, and are optimistic that the federal shield law will soon be passed and the critical free flow of information to the American people will continue.

I believe that our industry has the wind against its back. New ways of thinking, creative technology and the dedication of our industry’s employees – from publishers to reporters to carriers – will provide the momentum for even more growth in 2014.

Caroline Little is president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America in Arlington, Va.