October 10, 2012



Powers presents in Sweden

By Angela Powers

Newspapers are adding Internet editions, curtailing home deliveries and introducing content for mobile media. Yet, for the most part, they have been slow to innovate. What explains this tendency for some newspapers to avoid change?

Angela Powers, professor in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and her colleague, Ardyth Sohn, professor in Henderson, Nev., presented research analyzing the question at a media strategy conference at the Jonkoping International School of Business in Jonkoping, Sweden. The media management and transformation center in Jonkoping is the world's leading research source on media economics.

Powers and Sohn analyzed family-owned newspapers in several regions of the U.S. Their research focuses on whether family-owned newspapers might view change differently than other companies and have greater success in creating sustainable news media of the future.

"While family businesses face significant financial challenges, they are increasingly succeeding in local communities where others are failing," Powers said. "In fact, the Financial Times recently reported that family-owned companies, overall, have been better market performers than non-family-owned peers over the past five years."

Powers and Sohn found that family-owned newspapers often focused on long-term strategies and invested during downtimes. Using organizational ecology, they also found that newspapers sometimes overlooked their commercial environments and conducted business as usual.

"Such newspapers were often profitable in adhering to the status quo," Powers said. "On the other hand, innovations that were supposed to generate success often created economic uncertainties, market ambiguities and a lack of a clear business or marketing plans, resulting in a dismantling of strategies for newspapers."

Such findings may explain why some newspapers have resisted change. According to Powers and Sohn, family-owned newspapers can be profitable providing information services to local communities the old-fashioned way.

"Change is inevitable," Powers said. "Yet, changing too quickly may cause havoc and increase instances of mortality in the newspaper business."