A number of Iowa newspapers are getting much thinner these days thanks in part to the economic downturn. The papers are losing advertiser dollars and more people are now placing their classified ads on-line. Bill Monroe, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association, says smaller, weekly newspapers never relied on classified ads and are still thriving.
In addition, the smaller newspapers are generally located in rural Iowa, where the farm economy is strong. "We’ve had record crops and record prices for three years running. That translates into good business on main street in rural Iowa," Monroe said. "So, those folks are not experiencing the kind of cuts you’re reading about, not only in Iowa but across the country, with the larger (daily newspapers)."
About 90% of Iowa’s 320 newspapers are based in smaller communities. Only 40 of those papers are printed and delivered daily, the rest are weekly. Monroe says newspapers, like many media outlets, are operating with two business models – the traditional delivery of news and on-line content. He doesn’t expect the actual paper, delivered to the doorstep, to disappear anytime soon.
"In the next few decades, I think you’ll always have a print component for every newspaper," Monroe said. "But, I believe you’re going to see more and more people wanting to get that information sooner and more conveniently on their PDA or computer…and we’re headed in that direction."
The latest edition of Time Magazine features a cover story about the future of the newspaper industry and the author suggests that newspapers should charge readers to browse their on-line content. Monroe says that would be difficult to implement, but believes customers will be willing to pay for their local news.
"Internet fatigue is a phrase we’re hearing more and more often," Monroe said. "Finding good, quality information on-line is where I think the newspapers are going to shine." Subscribers to the Council Bluffs Nonpareil are not receiving their paper for the first time today. The Nonpareil has suspended production of the print version of its Monday paper to cut costs. The paper will still be deliver Tuesday through Sunday.