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Caroline Little

Caroline Little

The past 12 months have been an invigorating time for the newspaper media business. The next 12 are shaping up to be even better.

In 2014, the newspaper industry overflowed with new ideas, technologies and content. Our industry developed better ways to reach readers and give them more of what they want — more stories, more engagement, more personalized information, and more content on their preferred platforms. The future of the newspaper media industry is across all platforms, from print to digital to mobile.

For example, our colleagues across the industry boldly experimented with technologies such as Google Glass, drones and automated technology to enhance reporting and developed new forms of interactive stories. Thanks to a wealth of information about digital news consumption, we are able to analyze data to personalize content, identify trends and create better products for both consumers and advertisers. Newspapers’ digital content audience rose to 166 million unique adult visitors in October — a record high.

The segment of readers accessing content exclusively on mobile exploded by 85 percent last year, according to comScore, and we expect that trend to continue. This growth offered new insight into our readers. In fact, the fastest growth for mobile content came from women ages 18-24 and men ages 25-34. Cutting-edge technology, immediate information and engaging social media content are important to these readers, and each of those things will be a key component of publishers’ strategies in the next year.

It’s now time to build on this success and move forward with exciting initiatives to better serve and inform our communities. Here are three ways the industry will accomplish that objective:

More collaboration

Sometimes all it takes is a creative idea. I believe that next year, we will see more partnerships between newspaper media and new start-ups, collaborating to bring news and information to readers by whatever method they choose to engage.

In 2014, NAA launched the Accelerator Pitch Program as a way to directly connect winning start-ups with industry executives at our annual NAA mediaXchange conference. I was delighted to find so many entrepreneurs focused on the newspaper media space, with fresh visions for maximizing our content, interacting with readers and leveraging appropriate new technology. We are hosting the competition again in March at NAA mediaXchange 2015 in Nashville. The event will lead to a new wave of ideas and partnerships as we work together to serve our readers.

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More engagement

One way to deepen engagement with local communities and offer something unique to loyal readers is to create and host specialty events. This has already proven immensely popular for newspapers such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Denver Post. It is likely that more newspapers will engage in these across the country.

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For the reader, engagement can involve giving them access to cooking demonstrations online when the food section is especially well-read. It can mean hosting bridal expos to feature the best local businesses; offering panels on key, local topics with recognized community experts; or holding a music festival for those who turn first to entertainment information. These types of unique and targeted events foster a deeper engagement with readers, while having a positive impact on the community at large.

More content

The Boston Globe recently launched an expanded, stand-alone business section, recognizing the tremendous corporate and entrepreneurial growth in the region. Similarly, the Dallas Morning News will offer its third luxury lifestyle magazine in 2015, leveraging journalists’ insights and storytelling strengths to discuss home designs, furnishings and elegant living in North Texas. The Omaha World-Herald has expanded its digital offerings with niche websites, aimed at popular categories in Nebraska such as high school sports and the outdoors.

These are all examples of publishers understanding their readers and community, and offering more of what they like — whether that is more local news coverage, unique videos or expanded content. It’s about customizing offerings to each reader and finding new ways to offer more of what matters to the community.

More is the best word to describe what I expect from the newspaper industry in 2015. We have changed how people view newspaper media, and are doing even more. With technology, journalism and media engagement rapidly evolving, so does the business structure that supports those efforts.

We enter 2015 with more ways to build on the successes of 2014. I have every reason to believe these actions will pay off for our readers, our advertisers and our industry.

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Little is president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America

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