by Jason Fry
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in news consumption as media companies work around-the-clock to provide constant updates on the historic event. Simultaneously, newspapers have felt the economic pinch and had to adapt to sharp declines in advertising revenue and implement required safety measures to protect its staff.
I recently sat down (virtually) with Troy Niday, chief operations officer of Sonoma Media Investments, which publishes and prints a total of nine newspapers and magazines in the Santa Rosa, California, region. Niday boasts more than 30 years of newspaper and media industry experience in large and small markets. Using the RouteSmart Online solution from RouteSmart Technologies, Sonoma publications increased its deliveries per route, improved circulation rates, reduced carrier turnover and improved customer service and retention.
COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends in the newspaper industry, according to Niday. The company has experienced a significant 12% increase in total subscriber accounts, while at the same time grappling with a significant drop in advertising revenue.
“Local businesses don’t have the money to spend, and people aren’t out as much in brick-and-mortar stores,” Niday said. “We are seeing a bit of a comeback, but [the pandemic] has not settled yet.”
In addition to covering the COVID-19 pandemic, Niday’s publications are also reporting on historic California wildfires, which continue to ravage the West Coast.
“People are consuming more news,” Niday noted. “The reliance on quality, local journalism is being valued, which is a comeback. People are relying on local brands. On a macro level, it has accelerated a lot of trends we were facing.”
Media companies are adapting to lost revenue from advertising by firing up the printing presses to increase print and delivery of publications other than their own. “It’s a print or be-printed world,” Niday remarked. Having its own press has enabled Sonoma Media Investments to print and deliver 16 different newspaper and magazines, using the RouteSmart Online solution to optimize its efficiency, improve its customer service and decrease turnover in the carrier force.
“At first, my team was saying ‘Ah, I don’t need this,’” Niday recalled. “Now, they’re saying they’re glad to have RouteSmart Online.”
As the dynamics of print publications continue to change, Sonoma and other media companies have leveraged the RouteSmart Online solution to optimize its distribution, saving both time and money. “If I’m delivering fewer products, then I’m making less money,” Niday said. “So, I either need to find other ways to find products, throw more money at it, or as we’re doing with RouteSmart, continue to find and optimize, optimize, optimize. (Route optimization) is not an event anymore. It has to be an ongoing look.”