Emmis Communications and Newspapers and Advertising and IBJ and Indianapolis Star and TV Stations and Opinion and Media & Marketing

How IBJ is surviving the recession

April 27, 2009
This economy has been tough on just about everybody. No matter what your choice of media, you can't escape the news about companies and entire industries challenged by the recession.

But what about the folks doing all that reporting?

I'm sure you've noticed that the media industry has generated its own share of headlines. In fact, our industry is among those that have suffered the most.

Trouble in radio is well-documented, and we are seeing it right here at home. Locally based Emmis Communications Corp., one of the largest players in the business, is struggling. While reporting a 26-percent drop in March revenue from the year prior, the company said "the advertising climate remains incredibly weak."

We can relate to that.

Television stations have also been battling declining viewership and advertising. After the huge influx of political ad dollars dried up following the November elections, TV advertising went on the blink. The tube's bread-and-butter clients—auto dealers and retailers—have all but disappeared.

Daily newspapers facing the same battles have cut staff, frequency and the size of their papers as ad dollars went into hibernation. Some dailies have gone solely digital; others have just plain gone away.

In Indy, the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star is no exception. Among other things, the Star has implemented a series of layoffs and furloughs, shrunk the size of the paper it's printed on, and consolidated news sections to cut page counts.

So what about IBJ?

The good news is that most of the big trouble in the media business is being played out at larger, nationally oriented companies with mass audiences and heavy debt loads.

Smaller companies with niche publications—especially the ones that focus their coverage locally—are better able to persevere. Sound local ownership is also a plus.

But IBJ is not immune to the industry's challenges. After record years in 2007 and 2008, advertising has slowed dramatically this year. Ever optimistic, we look forward to a stronger second half.

In spite of the downturn, we remain solidly profitable, and we have taken cost-cutting steps to maintain that status. Some steps have been harder than others.

In the last few months, we have terminated five employees, about 8 percent of our full-time staff. That was a first in company history. Other initiatives have included bringing previously outsourced functions back in house and being more vigilant about watching page counts.

Like most businesses, we continue to look for ways to save money and operate more efficiently. In doing so, we will not and have not sacrificed the quality of information and analysis we publish in our newspaper and on the Web.

Even in these times of diminishing revenue, we are making major investments in our digital products—Web, mobile news delivery via smart phones and iPhone applications, e-mail news alerts, text-message alerts, and the like. We will begin rolling out these features in June.

These investments in digital are not made at the expense of our print edition. We remain committed to print journalism; we don't think print is dead, at least not in our niche and with our readers.

At the same time, we are well aware of the trends in our industry. Our goal is to be the best provider of local business news in Indianapolis, and to deliver it through as many channels as our consumers want and need.

Last month, we completed our 29th year publishing in-depth coverage of local business news for our readers, and we are positioning ourselves to fulfill that mission for a long time to come.

Thanks for being one of our valued readers.

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Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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