The Austin American-Statesman, a Cox Enterprises newspaper, is located at 305 S. Congress Ave., in Austin, Texas.
Seeking more paid content is an emphasis for newspapers in the digital age, and The Austin American-Statesman is excited about its recent entry into that field. With hookem.com, for $9.95 a month, you can keep track of Texas Longhorns’ college football recruiting, says Tim Lott, VP for audience strategy at the Austin American-Statesman. Lott describes his job as being “at the intersection of commerce and news.”
“The newspaper industry is obsessed with paid content,” says Lott, and hookem.com, in partnership with 24/7 Sports, and with InFactDaily.com, another paid content site (featuring city hall and local politics), The Statesman is marketing products advertisers and readers are willing to buy.
“How to replace declining print revenue with digital revenue” is the conundrum of the newspaper business according to Editor Fred Zipp. He describes The Statesman as an “early, enthusiastic adapter committed to trying to go where the audience is.” The Statesman uses the “infinite capacity of the web” to complement print with audio, video, and databases. (Click on Enterprise Stories to see a rich selection of investigative reporting on Statesman.com.)
From 2000 to 2011, The Statesman’s newsroom staff shrank from 210 to 166, which includes 15 employees committed to online news. Zipp describes this as a period of “contraction,” that produced a tighter news-hole and reduced coverage.
In 2009, “we reached a point where we realized there was danger in removing any more content,” says Zipp. In response, The Statesman doubled the size of its Sunday Insight – news and commentary -- section, a change, Zipp says, readers appreciated. Another positive move was the collaboration with the St. Petersburg Times (See the St. Petersburg Times report on whoneedsnewspapers.org) to create PolitiFact Texas, which is proving popular with readers.
Zipp says people who choose newspaper reporting and editing are curious, nosy, and want to make a difference. “It’s still possible to do that work,” he says, but it’s “hard to ignore the doomsayers.” He describes the yin-yang of newsroom culture as “making a difference” vs. “a future for our enterprise.”
Online Managing Editor Zach Ryall oversees content on statesman.com and Austin360.com. Ryall says the days are gone when journalists can say, “All I care about is editorial.” You can’t “turn a blind-eye to what our business needs to do to stay healthy in this current market.” In his job, Ryall routinely interacts with marketing, advertising, and finance. (Click on the Backgrounder to see information on staffing, revenue and technology.)
Click on J-Epiphanies to hear stories of when the power and purpose of journalism became clear to Zipp, Lott and Ryall.
Coming Next, the Western States series: The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Navajo Times, and The Las Vegas Sun.
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-- Sara Brown and Paul Steinle