THE POWER OF Togetherness: In turbulent media climate, national and state press associations continue to serve as advocates and educators for their members.

Author:Peck, Gretchen A.

The business of newspapers is no longer competitive. While most towns may still have a local community newspaper, very few have two. Now, the culture is more collaborative, with publishers willing to work together, and share both their challenges and successes with one another.

Bringing them together are national and state press associations. They've felt the same struggles as their members, but they are proving to be invaluable allies in the quest to overcome them.

Delivering Insight and Ideas

The Southern Newspaper Publishers Association (SNPA) dates back to 1903 when the membership was made up of newspapers across 14 southeastern states. Today, the word "southern" in SNPA's name is somewhat of a misnomer, executive director Edward VanHorn said. VanHorn, who has been with the association for 42 years, said SNPA is enjoying "record membership."

"We have 600--mostly daily--newspapers as members," he said.

That's up by 200 members, give or take, over the course of the past decade. That growth is largely due to the way the organization thinks about the breadth of its influence today, which is no longer defined by geography.

SNPA's membership is "quite engaged," VanHorn said, and many travel to the Key Executives Mega-Conference each year. The event is hosted by SNPA, Inland Press Association, Local Media Association and News Media Alliance, and was held in Las Vegas last month.

"With the Mega-Conference and most industry meetings, they have evolved from being about how best to produce the newspaper to topics about how to adapt to a rapidly evolving technological and social market," VanHorn said. "They're also much more targeted toward new business models--like subscription growth as a revenue source--and a little less about traditional advertising."

It can be challenging for newspapers to carve out resources devoted to professional development and travel, so the SNPA creates learning and networking opportunities to them. It's a "P2P" webinar series, freely accessible to anyone who'd like to take part, and free of cost to SNPA members.

"We produce about one every month. They're often focused on topics related to revenue generation, cost savings, staff organization or sales," VanHorn said. "To participate, you have to share a success story from your own newspaper, so we get all of these great ideas that come out of the video conferences."

He noted that these are practical ideas rather than theoretical. For example, a webinar conference held in late 2018 had a wellspring of ideas. If a publisher implemented each of those ideas and successfully rolled them out, they had the combined potential to create as much as $790,000 to $1 million in additional revenue for similar-market newspapers.

"That's worth your dues," VanHorn said. "We got a membership request from a newspaper in Guam just this past week, and the reason they wanted to be a SNPA member was not because they're close by, obviously, but they wanted to participate in our webinars."

The webinar series, known as the Online Media Campus, is produced in partnership with the Iowa Newspaper Association. The partners also offer custom-branded webinar promotions to other press and publishing association around the country. To date, VanHorn estimates that more than 28,000 people have participated in the webinars since the launch.

He said membership has many other perks, such as learning and networking opportunities, both in person and virtually, but that's just part of the association's value proposition.

"The 'secret sauce' behind SNPA ... is that there is a camaraderie among members that is very special. If you were looking at things from the outside, you might...

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