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The Globe and Mail’s CEO Phillip Crawley in Ottawa

October 27, 2010

Phillip Crawley, President and CEO of the Globe and Mail, believes the world will have fewer newspapers in five years.

It’s not exactly a bold prediction, but Crawley’s boldness comes from his belief that his own paper can buck the industry decline.

“I’m out to prove print ain’t dead yet,” Crawley said in his low, raspy voice. What he meant is that the kind of print produced by the Globe is not dead yet, other papers should start writing their own obituaries.

“The differentiator is the quality of the content,” Crawley said. According to him, the Globe provides perspective and insight that is lacking in those newspapers that are failing.

He spoke at an event called ‘Newspaper Publishing in a Global, Digital Age’ held on October 26 in downtown Ottawa. Chirs Waddell, director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, questioned Crawley on the Globe and Mail’s most recent redesign and asked Crawley about the future of the business of journalism.

Crawley made it clear he believes advertising revenue is still the best way to monetize news media and this approach seems to work for his newspaper. To attract advertisers, the Globe and Mail launched a smaller, glossier, more colourful version of itself on October 1.  Crawley said the newspaper’s advertising revenue for October will be the highest its been since the beginning of the recession in 2007.

Glossy newsprint and full-colour on each page mean Crawley can sell space to advertisers who previously would not have considered print. Cosmetic company Loréal typically advertises on thick, glossy magazine pages, but will now be running ads in The Globe and Mail.

In January 2011, the New York Times will begin charging for access to online content. UK newspapers The Sun and The News of the World (both owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch) already ask online readers to pay.

“When you put the pay wall up, you lose 85 per cent of your traffic,” Crawley said. He went on to say Murdoch is betting subscription fees will offset lost advertising revenue.

Crawley said he prefers to focus on boosting traffic to attract advertisers. To do this, he said he uses print and online media differently to match what readers want in each place. Short, hard news articles appear on the web, where readers regularly check in for a few minutes throughout the day. The daily newspaper features longer stories, and the weekend edition is supposed to keep readers’ attention for up to an hour.

The longer, in depth reads that appear in newsprint are what Crawley believes allow the Globe to offer what he call’s “premium content” to it’s readers. The Globe has 350 reporters in its newsroom who’s job it is to write stories readers won’t find anywhere else.  These include columnists and articles that with a point of view.  Other newsrooms can’t do this because of drastic cuts to staff reporters.

The Globe has added foreign correspondents in the past six months while its competition slashes expenses in an effort to remain afloat.

Premium content also includes foreign correspondents. Crawley said the Globe has increased its budget to send reporters to foreign countries in the past six months while competitors have slashed expenses. As a result, The Globe distinguishes itself as unique.

“US papers have nothing that is distinctive,” Crawley said. Most papers run news agency material that you can get anywhere else he said.

Crawley said the Globe and Mail’s circulation is up 3 per cent in the last six months. He noted other papers’ circulations continue to slide. If this keeps up, in five years it will only be Crawley’s kind of print that’s not dead.

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