The Changing Face of Newspapers

Paul Godfrey, CEO of Postmedia Network discusses the roller coaster of the print media frenzy that makes publishers and editors alike fear for the future.

The 96th annual Newspapers Canada National Conference and Trade Show began promptly at 8:30am at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Beginning the morning on a realistic foot, Paul Godfrey moved the crowd with his riveting expression of the struggle print media publishers have trying to compete with digital media. “If you exist only today in print, you will not survive for long,” he said recognizing the reality of newspapers.

Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey (right) with moderator Sandy Macleod of Torstar.

Godfrey is a well-respected man with a lot to say about the publishing industry from a political standpoint, a publishing perspective and the business aspect. Godfrey has been known for his 11-year role in politics as the Chairman of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and as President and CEO of Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, Sun Media Corporation and National Post. Paul Godfrey has a lot to say about the “Changing Face of Newspapers.”

While not on board with the idea of newspapers disappearing any time soon, Godfrey understands the struggle print media must endure just to compete with the digital age. However, Godfrey is not naive, believing, rather, that “newspapers are in great difficulty.”

During his return to Sun Media after the breakthrough of the digital media, Godfrey was in awe to see newspapers were handing out content for free. “The content that they gathered, all newspapers were giving it away for nothing on something called ‘the internet’ and I thought, ‘wow, isn’t that amazing.’”

Recognizing the decline of revenue from advertisements, Godfrey discussed what he was doing for the future of Postmedia in regards to gaining back lost income from ads. “Many newspapers including Postmedia are scrambling as quickly as they can to charge for content on various platforms. There’s no doubt about that,” Godfrey said. “Postmedia has done a number of things. We are on four platforms, which we call our ‘media quartet’, which is print, the web, the tablet and the smartphone.” Godfrey believes in completion through all social platforms, “Google and Facebook have dammed the river upstream. They get most of the digital advisement.”

The life span for print media in today’s age is slowly declining along with advertisement sales and the hope for the future. Godfrey uses the New York Times as an example of declining revenues. “[New York Times] are now counting the days until they become a company that relies on 60 per cent of revenue from reader participation and 40 per cent from advertising from print and digital,” says Godfrey.

Now it is almost too difficult to remember the days that the Times was averaging approximately 75 per cent of revenues from advertising and only 20 per cent from circulation. It goes without saying that the numbers do not compare.
While classified ads used to be the “heart and soul of newspaper revenue,” Godfrey explains the erosion of classified ads as “print ad revenue is in decline and continues to be that way.”

As a fact of life, change is everywhere. As CEO of Postmedia, Godfrey can recognize the facts of change. “Change is always taking place in this industry. You have to adjust to the change. Those who don’t adjust lose their jobs; the people that did adjust strived in the industry.”

“Right now we have over 180 newspapers-community newspapers, daily newspapers, some big and some not big at all in this country. I believe there will be more consolidation in the future,” said Godfrey. “I do not believe that newspapers themselves will disappear but I believe the device of the smartphone will be the device of the future.”

As the keynote comes to an end, Godfrey relishes on how much publications and print media have changed his life and his career. In a few short words he captures the essence of newspapers and their impact on the world, “We have been well served by newspapers, and it would be a pity if we lost them.”