Managing editor: Why we added USA Today to our newspaper – Lawrence Journal World

If you’ve read the Journal-World even infrequently lately, you’ve noticed that we added a section of national and international news from USA Today and that we’re eager to hear what you think about it.

Last week, during one of our monthly Coffee and a Newspaper sessions, General Manager Scott Stanford talked with our guests about how the USA Today section fits into our long-term plans.

All newspapers face the same challenges. Nationally, from 1965 to 2012, the percentage of people answering “yes” to the question “Did you read a newspaper yesterday?” fell from 65 percent to 29 percent. Newspaper advertising revenue went from about $66 billion in 2000 to $23.6 billion in 2013. This comes at a time when easy access to newspaper content on computers and smartphones means our audiences have never been larger.

On our websites — ljworld.com, KUSports.com, WellCommons and Lawrence.com — we serve 80,000 unique users a day. That’s two and a half times our print readership. But our revenue still comes mostly from print.

So you see the problem. Our readers are growing but ad dollars aren’t following them to digital. At the Journal-World, 65 percent of our revenue comes from advertising associated with our print news products. People paying for the paper account for 16 percent of revenue, and advertising on digital accounts for 19 percent. It’s important, Stanford told our guests, that we grow the digital and reader portions of the revenue pie. Making the newspaper more valuable is an important factor for the latter category.

The result across the country is smaller newsrooms with smaller newspapers. Nationwide, newsroom jobs have declined 33 percent since 2006, from 58,000 to 37,000. The Journal-World and other Kansas newspapers have seen those kind of job losses. That’s not just bad for us as a business; it’s bad for readers who count on us to tell them the stories that won’t be told without an independent media. Think Chad Lawhorn’s coverage of the Rock Chalk Park finances or Karen Dillon’s coverage of fracking, the unsolved Randy Leach disappearance or Kansas University’s use of planes.

What does USA Today have to do with any of this? For our loyal print readers, our addition of the section is a great sign. While newspapers across the country are printing fewer days of the week or going all-digital, we are investing in a significant improvement to our product. A newspaper planning for its demise does not add sections. Our plan is to be here.

And this addresses one of the most-heard complaints about the paper: the lack of national and international news. I think it’s right to devote our staff to covering Lawrence and Douglas County like no one else, but we also know that some of our readers do not get news from Internet sources. This fills a gap.

Feedback on the section has been more than 90 percent positive. We’d like to hear what you think. Send your thoughts to feedback@ljworld.com.

Coffee and a Newspaper sessions are your chance to visit the Journal-World, learn what’s new and tell us what’s on your mind. I will host the next session at noon on May 7, here at the newspaper office, 645 New Hampshire St.

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Lawrence Journal-World.

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