Newspaper publishers hope to turn around industry malaise |

Newspaper publishers hope to turn around industry malaise

CHICAGO – Telling stories is still the lifeblood of the newspaper business, but industry executives are worried they’re not doing a good job explaining one of the biggest stories of the day: The turmoil roiling their own industry.In a remarkably bracing pep talk to his fellow publishers, Jay R. Smith, president of Cox Newspapers Inc. and outgoing chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, opened the industry’s annual meeting Monday with a command to “stop whining” about the woes facing the business and “start winning.””The world changed a lot, and we changed a little,” Smith said in an opening address to publishers at the NAA conference. “It’s OK to acknowledge our missteps and move on, but learn and grow as you do.”The No. 2 player in the industry, Knight Ridder Inc., was forced to put itself up for sale following a shareholder revolt, and the industry is generally seen in decline as more readers and advertisers go online. Meanwhile, newspaper print operations, while still very profitable, are looking less robust amid falling circulation, sluggish advertising growth and higher costs for newsprint.In an effort to turn around perceptions, the NAA is embarking on an advertising campaign intended to make the case for newspaper advertising as an effective way to reach people, especially as it becomes easier to skip ads in other media with devices like digital video recorders.The NAA hired The Martin Agency, an advertising firm that came up with campaigns for UPS and the auto insurer Geico, to design an ad program aimed at promoting the effectiveness of newspapers as an advertising medium. The campaign began March 20.”You really need to get your swagger back,” Earl Cox, chief strategy officer of The Martin Agency, said in a speech to the publishers. At the same time, Cox said newspapers also need to combat the impression that they are a static, “old school” medium.Publishers also heard complaints from advertisers who say it is difficult to buy newspaper advertising compared with other media, particularly when more than one newspaper is involved.”Why can’t I buy print and online together?” said Andrew Swinand, executive vice president at Starcom Worldwide, a major advertising-buying agency in Chicago. Swinand, who spoke on a panel Sunday, also expressed frustration at having to communicate with newspaper advertising departments by fax while his staff interacts with other media outlets like TV electronically.Making newspaper advertising easier to buy and catering better to the evolving needs of advertisers, particularly as they boost spending online, is a topic that came up frequently in conversations with executives at the conference.”Newspapers are holding on to their national audiences better (than other media), but the negative side is we’re more difficult to buy,” Gary Pruitt, the CEO of The McClatchy Co., said in an interview. “The industry is aware of it.”Pruitt declined to comment on the biggest topic of the day in the newspaper business: Who will buy the 12 Knight Ridder newspapers McClatchy plans to sell as part of its $4.5 billion deal to acquire the San Jose, Calif.-based company. McClatchy is also assuming $2 billion in debt from Knight Ridder.McClatchy is evaluating bids, and has said it hopes to conclude deals for the papers quickly. It plans to keep the other 20 papers in the Knight Ridder group, making it the second-largest company in the newspaper business in terms of circulation, behind Gannett Co.Another topic receiving buzz at this year’s conference is working toward creating a single method for buying online advertising across the vast network of newspaper Web sites.An NAA study released Monday showed that unique visitors to newspaper Web sites jumped 21 percent from January to December 2005, yet selling advertising across those sites as a unit is still difficult, and creating a solution for that is another urgent issue that needs to be addressed.”The industry has not yet come up with an ideal solution” to that problem, says Jason Klein, the head of the Newspaper National Network, a group that coordinates national advertising packages for newspaper groups.Newspapers need to offer those viewers to advertisers in some kind of a “neat package,” Klein said, but it’s hard to do with such a variety of different technical standards and measurements for online traffic across the hundreds of newspaper Web sites in the country. “It’s been very undersold,” he said.Gasoline prices jump 9 cents per gallon in a weekWASHINGTON – The average retail price of gasoline jumped nine cents last week to $2.59 a gallon.The federal Energy Information Administration said Monday that U.S. motorists paid $2.588 a gallon on average for regular grade last week, an increase of nine cents from the previous week. Pump prices are 37.1 cents higher than a year ago.Average retail gasoline prices peaked at $3.07 a gallon last September, a reflection of the extreme tightness in the market following Hurricane Katrina, which knocked out refineries in the Gulf region, as well as pipelines that deliver fuel to the East Coast and Midwest.Gasoline prices were most expensive last week on the West Coast, averaging $2.672 per gallon, and cheapest in the Rocky Mountain region, averaging $2.421 per gallon.One of the key factors underpinning the high price of gasoline is the cost of crude oil, which has been elevated by strong demand, tight global supplies and geopolitical uncertainties.Crude-oil futures settled Monday at $66.74 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That is about 17 percent higher than a year ago. Gasoline futures closed at $1.8632 per gallon, or 8 percent above year-ago levels.Westar chief to jailTOPEKA, Kan. – A federal judge has sentenced former Westar Energy Chief Executive Officer David Wittig to 18 years in prison for looting the utlility.Poll: Young adults, minorities leading a revolution in how cell phones are usedWASHINGTON – Young adults and minorities are leading a revolution in how Americans use their cell phones.People from age 18 to 29 and minorities are more likely to use their phones as personal computers, digital music players, cameras and more, an AP-AOL-Pew poll found.”We’ve got everything on my phone,” said Mark Madsen, a 24-year-old college student from Chattanooga, Tenn. “I use it mostly for the phone, but I also play video games and use the MP3 player. I pretty much use it all the time.”Almost two-thirds of young adults use their phones to send text messages. More than half use them to take pictures and almost half to play games. They use these features, as well as Internet connections, about twice as often as cell phone users overall.Minorities were far more likely than whites to use the phones to take pictures, send text messages and use the Internet, though the minority rates were influenced by enthusiasm among Hispanics – who tend to be a younger population, the poll found.”We think of them as mobile phones, but the personal computer, mobile phone and the Internet are merging into some new medium like the personal computer in the 1980s or the Internet in the 1990s,” said Howard Rheingold, an author who has taught at Stanford University and written extensively about the effects of technology.Most cell phone owners prize them for traditional purposes like staying in touch with family and friends and helping in an emergency. Two-thirds say they would really miss their cell phones if they didn’t have them. Even more, three-fourths of cell phone users, say they’ve used them in an emergency and it really helped.”When I’m driving to my appointments, everybody calls me on my cell phone,” said 26-year-old Abel Yanez of San Jose, Calif, who works in a landscaping business. “When I’m in my office, I use my cell phone because if I need to leave, I just leave. I have the office phone so I can dial up on the Internet.”A fourth say they can’t imagine life without their cell phones.”My cell phone is pretty much a necessity – sometimes a pain but a necessity,” said Sandra Moore of Colorado Springs, Colo. “I have children and the cell phone gives me the freedom to be places I need to be. It’s easier to communicate with people, you can reach them almost any time.”But that means people can reach me anytime,” she grumbled. “Sometimes, I just turn the ringer off.”Almost one-fourth of those polled say too many people try to get in touch with them on their cell phones – just one of many headaches balanced against the devices’ advantages.The poll also found:-More than a fourth, 28 percent, said they sometimes don’t drive as safely as they should because they are using a cell phone.-More than a third, 36 percent, said they are sometimes shocked at the size of their service bill.Cell phone users in this country are just starting to catch up with people in many European and Asian countries in using cell phones features such as text messaging, said Naomi Baron, a linguistics professor at American University.”Cell phones came into use as talking instruments,” Baron said. “In this country, people take a call and just start chatting away. They feel we have the right to talk, if other people don’t want to listen they can leave.”But almost nine in 10 users of cell phones say they encounter others using those phones in an annoying way. Only 8 percent of cell users acknowledge their own use of cell phones is sometimes rude.”People tend to talk louder on the phone. That’s quite irritating,” said Pamela Sorenson, a 57-year-old resident of Bellingham, Wash. “I often hear young people, mostly college age, talking about dating and personal things I don’t want to know about.”The AP-AOL-Pew poll of 1,503 adults included 1,286 cell phone users and was conducted March 8-26. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. About half of the interviews, 752, were conducted by dialing landlines and 751 were conducted by dialing cell phones.Pew Research Center – http://www.people-press.orgComplex organ re-engineered for the first time in bladder transplantsBOSTON – For the first time, scientists have rebuilt a complex human organ, the bladder, in seven young patients using live tissue grown in the lab – a breakthrough that could hold exciting promise for someday regenerating ailing hearts and other organs.Only simpler tissues – skin, bone, and cartilage – have been lab-grown in the past. This is the first time that a more intricate organ has been mostly replaced with tissue grown from the patient’s own cells.”This suggests that tissue engineering may one day be a solution to the shortage of donor organs in this country for those needing transplants,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, the lead researcher. He said he believes the work provides a model for growing other tissues and organs.The bladder transplants, performed on seven patients ages 4 to 19, were being reported online Tuesday in The Lancet medical journal. The research team at Children’s Hospital in Boston did the first procedure in 1999 but wanted to make sure it would work on others. The results weren’t announced while the doctors did the other surgeries and followed the progress of the last patient for almost two more years.”It gives everyone in the field … the evidence and encouragement they’ve needed to say this can be done,” said Dr. Stephen Badylak, a University of Pittsburgh expert in tissue engineering.Growing other organs will likely hold unforeseen challenges, however, since organs are so specialized in their functions, scientists stress.Even for people with bladder disease – and there are an estimated 35 million in the United States alone – Atala’s technique requires testing on more patients and for longer times, researchers say. Replacing an entire bladder would pose many more problems, including reconnecting urine tubes, blood supply, and nerve signaling, according to Dr. Steve Y. Chung, an Illinois urologist who wrote a commentary for The Lancet.Still, he called the work “a tremendous, tremendous advance.”For the children and teenagers in the study, the transplants reduced leaking from their bladders – a potentially big gain in quality of life. For 16-year-old Kaitlyne McNamara, the transplant has meant a new social life.Vail Colorado

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