Diversifying: How a newspaper publisher branched out

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Penny Muse Abernathy, a professor and the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina, has done groundbreaking work both documenting the rise of "news deserts" and developing sustainable business models for local news organizations.

She shared a noteworthy example of diversification in her interview with the Medill Local News Initiative's News Leaders Project.

In this article, read about how The Pilot, a twice-weekly hundred-year-old paper in the Sandhills of eastern North Carolina, has transformed its business model, developing critically important digital skills while also remaining first and foremost a newspaper company with strong ties to the community where it is located.

Twenty years ago, The Pilot was almost totally dependent on the newspaper for both its revenue and its profit. With print revenues beginning to decline, David Woronoff, the publisher, realized, "We need to diversify."

Over the past two decades, he has diversified by offering new products and services to both readers and advertisers (phone books, magazines, e-newsletters, an in-house digital ad agency) and by looking beyond the geographic confines of Moore County (publishing magazines in high-growth communities around the state, buying an independent bookstore that brings in 75 to 80 authors from around the country a year, and convening statewide conferences for business leaders). Today, these new products and publications account for more than two-thirds of annual revenue for the company. All this additional revenue supports the continual transformation of the newspaper, which routinely wins national awards for being best in its class.

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