RJI helps revamp Inland cost, revenue study

Posted December 17, 2013

The nearly 100-year-old National Cost and Revenue Study for newspapers has been reimagined for the 21st century: bound copies and PDFs are out; an interactive Web-based dashboard is in.

Developers believe the improvements will be more useful to newspaper executives as they make timely financial choices about their holdings.

The study, which has been conducted by Inland Press Association since the 1920s, provides data gathered from newspapers annually. The data includes revenues (advertising, circulation) and  expenditures (cost of paper, labor). Inland aggregates and segregates the information based on circulation and revenue classes.

The annual study was more like “a historical document rather than a tool to make real-time decisions,” says Bob Terzotis, vice president of operations at Mather Economics, which overhauled the study with Inland and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. One of the biggest changes to the study: quarterly updates.

Newspaper leaders can see the changes and learn about new features during a free webinar at 10:30 a.m. CST on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Register here.

RJI researchers worked with Inland and Mather Economics to evaluate the current study, update metrics and conduct focus groups throughout the U.S.

Using the new quarterly study, executives still can find answers to the age-old questions:

Am I underpaying or overpaying my editor compared to other papers my size?

How does my advertising revenue and the size of my sales force compare to other papers in similar markets?

But, says Terzotis, today's publishers are more interested in metrics on digital advertising revenue than telephone and utility bills. Therefore, certain categories have been eliminated from the questionnaire that forms the basis for the study.

Another welcome change: publishers can complete the questionnaire online. The days — and weeks — of poring over paper forms are over.

The new study, with its customized data sets and easy-to-navigate interface, “looks like it’s on steroids,” he says.

The feedback from across the country was invaluable in shaping today's study, says Terzotis. But his firm won't wait 100 years to determine what financial information is most important to busy newspaper executives. “After a year, we’ll ask people again.”