Media General's Charlottesville, Va., Newspaper Named One of '10 That Do It Right'; Other Company Newspapers Also Lead in Developing New Products and Revenue Streams

Mar 03, 2011, 14:03 ET from Media General, Inc.

RICHMOND, Va., March 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Media General, Inc. (NYSE: MEG) said today that its community newspaper, The (Charlottesville, Va.) Daily Progress, was named by Editor & Publisher as one of "10 That Do It Right."

In its March 2011 issue, Editor & Publisher cited the Daily Progress' strength in public affairs reporting, particularly through the newspaper's innovative partnership with Charlottesville Tomorrow, a nonprofit Web-only news service. The partnership has received national attention and has helped the Daily Progress maintain its position as the dominant provider of local public affairs news in the Charlottesville market.

"We were pleased to receive the recognition from Editor & Publisher because it honors our core strength of excellent local journalism, particularly for public affairs reporting," said Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer of Media General. "Our partnership with Charlottesville Tomorrow highlights the importance of digital and we believe all Media General newspapers have made great strides transforming themselves to a digital model and in creating new products and revenue streams. This press release highlights several examples," said Mr. Morton.  

Digital Transformation

Each Media General newspaper has developed a family of companion services in digital media. These include websites, mobile services, social media and apps for smart phones and tablets. Most newspapers are available on the web as digital replicas of their print edition and some can be downloaded to e-readers. These are paid services that count as paid circulation.  

Media General's local media websites, including those associated with the company's television stations, attract an average of 11 million Unique Visitors per month. Visitor sessions reached 230 million in 2010, and Page Views reached approximately 800 million.  Mobile Unique Visitors and Page Views doubled in 2010, and Visitor Sessions tripled. Last year, Media General began providing local news on iPhone and Android mobile applications for 20 of its local properties. These apps were downloaded more than 30,000 times and generated more than 2 million page views. All of the company's properties use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media. Anchors, editors, reporters and columnists engage users in conversation and post unique local content 24/7. In 2010, nearly 26 million referrals were made to Media General websites from social media platforms. On Facebook alone, there were nearly 17 million referrals, an exponential increase from 2009.

Digital Revenue Growth

Media General is effectively monetizing its digital audience. Local website revenues grew 14% in 2010 and accounted for 64% of total digital media revenues of $43 million. Local online revenues grew 26% and National online revenues increased 6%. Classified online advertising grew 10%, due in part to Internet partnerships with Yahoo! and Zillow. In 2010, Media General, through its Richmond Times-Dispatch, was the first local media company to introduce Groupon-powered daily deals to its marketplace. Three television markets have since been added and the company plans to launch in several other markets this year.

Metered Paywalls

In early December 2010, Media General began experimenting with a metered paywall on the website of the Hickory Daily Record in North Carolina. Early results indicate that heavy users are willing to pay a reasonable fee for premium local content. On February 16, the Richmond Times-Dispatch announced a plan to launch a paid content pilot in partnership with Google to be called Google One Pass. The company will study these different models to determine future pilots at other newspapers.

Central Editing Centers

Copy editing and design for Media General's three metro newspapers, The Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem Journal, were consolidated as of December 2010 into a Centralized Editing Center. This move generated $1 million in expense savings, a portion of which is being reinvested in news-generating resources. All Media General newspapers are now assigned to one of several central editing centers operated throughout the company.

New Advertising Approaches in Print

Media General newspapers are offering advertisers creative new advertising positions within the newspaper, without detracting from the integrity of news content. Examples include banners across the bottom of section fronts, ears on the upper right hand corner of section fronts, and other unique in-paper ad designs and positions. In 2010, Media General newspapers in several markets launched new preprint programs targeted to non-subscribers in certain zip codes that advertisers want to reach, especially on weekends. This program will be expanded to many newspaper markets in 2011.  

Circulation Growth

Media General's newspapers finished 2010 on a Circulation rebound as a result of aggressive sales initiatives focused on home delivery. December 2010 provided the best monthly performance of the year with total average Daily net-paid circulation finishing nearly 1 percent above December 2009. Sunday circulation was above December 2009 by 1.8 percent. Ten newspapers reported growth in Daily or Sunday circulation (or both) in December. The (Charlottesville, Va.) Daily Progress saw Daily growth and The Tampa Tribune reported year-over-year Daily and Sunday growth for December. In 2011, Media General is building on this momentum with sales efforts for increasing single copy sales as well as continuing initiatives for home delivery.

Newspaper Printing and Distribution Sales

The company's outside printing and distribution business continued to grow in 2010. Media General has 10 strategically located print facilities in the Southeast. In addition to printing its own newspapers, the company provides printing and delivery services for more than 100 other newspapers and specialty products. In late 2010, the Winston-Salem Journal plant began printing the USA TODAY.

Pulitzer Prize for Public Service

Media General has always been committed to excellent local journalism. In 2010, the Bristol Herald Courier won the top Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. This recognition underscores the quality and value of its local content and was remarkable that a newspaper of this smaller size achieved this honor.

About Media General

Media General is a leading provider of news, information and entertainment across multiple media platforms, serving consumers and advertisers in strong local markets, primarily in the Southeastern United States. Media General's operations are organized in five geographic market segments and a sixth segment that includes the company's interactive advertising services and certain other operations. The company's operations include 18 network-affiliated television stations and their associated websites, three metropolitan and 20 community newspapers and their associated websites, and more than 200 specialty publications that include weekly newspapers and niche publications targeted to various demographic, geographic and topical communities of interest. Many of the company's specialty publications have associated websites. Media General additionally operates three interactive advertising services companies: Blockdot, which specializes in interactive entertainment and advergaming technologies;, a coupon and shopping website; and NetInformer, a leading provider of wireless media and mobile marketing services.

SOURCE Media General, Inc.