Industries to Watch: Small and Mid-Market Newspapers

As the shift of newspaper readers toward media websites rather than print copies continues, the use of pay walls for content access is gaining traction with more and more newspaper companies, especially among the big players. While this may work with the big guys--granted, it will take time to retrain a consumer base that has been given free access to news coverage by the vast majority of outlets trying to have the first “scoop” posted for more than a decade now--smaller entities will struggle in this new online pay model.

NACM Graduate School of Credit and Financial Management instructor Mohan Subramaniam, MBA, DBA, of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, said the reasons for such concern revolve around resources, or a lack thereof, to invest in such new technology and, perhaps more importantly, to convince enough readers to pay for access. Remember: many small and mid-market newspapers rely heavily on upstart journalists fresh out of college, not marketable writers with national-level creditability. “You need something special now, in that industry like access to big name, star writers and columnists like Dan Shaughnessy or Paul Krugman…something exclusive,” Subramaniam said. “Small papers can’t get involved in this. It’s very scary to invest in the model if you are small because you don’t have the reach to attract those big names or even the big advertisers needed for a pay service.”

As for the long-held belief that smaller newspapers provide the localized stories the big fish have little interest in, those stories can now be found with increasing regularity by community bloggers, even if levels of creditability can vary.

Subramaniam warned those supplying to such companies to investigate the availability of their debtors’ financials in the industry and to start looking at their ratios and things like working capital as many of these smaller newspaper company "will die."

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

Note: Extended version of this story will be available in this week's edition of NACM eNews, available late Thursday afternoon at

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