It seems like only yesterday, but we are closing in on five years since Advance Publications shook up the newspaper business by stopping daily publication of the Ann Arbor News, dissolving the company and reincorporating as a web-dominant enterprise.
I was reminded to take a look back at the relentless, if controversial, strategy when Advance Local president Randy Siegel released one of his regular six-month progress reports to senior executives Friday and e-mailed me a copy. (The full text follows at the end of this post).
In the manner of such communiques at Advance and other newspaper chains, the report was upbeat, noting big increases in web traffic and digital ad sales, spiced with mentions of journalism of note and editorial prizes.
As measured by comScore, Advance’s 31 properties were up 43 percent in visits year-to-year in April and 37 percent in May, Siegel wrote, and collectively comScore ranks the sites ninth among general news sites nationally.
“All of our local markets are generating significant year-over-year growth in digital revenues,” Siegel added, led by a 66 percent increase at its Pennsylvania properties.
This prompted me to ask (and not for the first time) how Advance’s digital revenue gains compared to continuing print advertising losses.
Advance, like most private companies, does not release revenue or profit numbers, but Siegel did reply:
Our goal from the beginning has been to offset our secular print revenue declines with digital revenue growth and lower overall expenses. We have made promising steps toward that goal, but we have more work to do, which is why we are so focused on building our digital audience and digital ad revenues.