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Convention President's Remarks 2013
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MPA President's Address

The following remarks were delivered by MPA-MPS President Jim Prince during the President's Banquet and Hall of Fame presentation Friday evening, June 21, at the 147th Annual Convention of the Mississippi Press Association.

JPMorgan Chase delivers a printed copy of its internal employee newspaper to the desks and personal mailboxes of its 260,000 employees every month, even though it's available digitally. Chase is one of the largest most highly regarded and technologically advanced banks in the world. Still, their own behavioral research shows their employees prefer print and absorb information better in print.

One of the largest and most technologically advanced banks in the world prints a newspaper. Sounds kind of quaint, doesn't it.

Well, I'm not really telling you a thing you don't already know. Our own recent research confirms what many of us have suspected or know in our own markets: Seven of 10 Mississippians read a printed newspaper or visit a newspaper's website regularly. That's more than 1.5 million consumers.

Nearly half of Mississippi consumers say the newspaper is their primary source for sales and shopping information, followed by their second choice, television, at 13%. There is, no doubt, power in print.

Newspaper readership in Mississippi is stronger among younger adults (18-34) than seen in most states. More than seven in 10 (72%) of younger adults access a printed newspaper or a newspaper website weekly.

So, reports of the death of newspapers are proving to be greatly exaggerated, but what does that mean for us? So what! It's been a grueling six years since the bottom fell out in November 2007. Things are gradually starting to tick up.

It means we must continue to innovate and adapt - or die.

In its April issue, Harvard Business Review reported that, frustrated by the lack of rigorous research, they undertook a statistical study of thousands of companies to find out what makes them truly great, and eventually identified several hundred among them that have done well enough for a long enough period of time to qualify as truly exceptional.

Then they discovered something startling: The many and diverse choices that made certain companies great were consistent with just three seemingly elementary rules:

1. Better before cheaper-in other words, compete on unique features and/or benefits other than price.

2. Revenue before cost-that is, prioritize increasing revenue over reducing costs.

3. There are no other rules-so change anything you must to follow Rules 1 and 2.

The rules don't dictate specific behaviors; nor are they even general strategies. They're foundational concepts on which companies have built greatness over many years.

For us, content matters. Good newspapers that serve their communities well will survive and thrive. Go out of your way to get more names and faces in print. Put additional content on the web, but don't give it away for free.

We must market newspapers better. Focus on improving ad sales rather than cost reduction.

Cutting out days of publication doesn't fit the Harvard Business Review model for the most successful companies.

I applaud The Sun Herald here on the Coast because executives haven't bought in to the notion that print is dead and remain committed to delivering a printed newspaper every morning. Many of you, even in much smaller markets, remain committed.

Look at The Dallas Morning News and The Orange County Register. They've opened their news holes and focused on more content.

I believe theirs is the model that will win the day.


1. Better before cheaper-in other words, compete on unique features and/or benefits other than price.

2. Revenue before cost-that is, prioritize increasing revenue over reducing costs.

3. There are no other rules-so change anything you must to follow Rules 1 and 2.

To be sure, it's tough in this 24/7 news cycle, especially for us smaller newspapers. We live in a world where everyone is a publisher and no one is an editor.

With the economy growing at a slow, tepid pace, we're all working harder but smarter.

And when contacting sources becomes criminal for journalists, I fear for our Liberty. "(O)ur liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost," Thomas Jefferson wrote.

Many of you toil away in relative anonymity, but what you do matters. If you didn't report it, nobody would. It may not matter to CBS News, but it matters to the people in our communities, like when the Chickenbone Fire Department responds to a rollover in Calhoun County.

I love the Delta, but it's a hard place to eke out a living sometimes. We have members who take on papers just to keep them going. When a community loses its newspaper, it loses its soul. We've all grieved over New Orleans and wondered. But sometimes big corporations get it wrong. They lack that fire in the belly that since the 18th Century in America has driven newspapering instead of margins.

Everyone is a publisher in this age but few are competent editors.

We may have to rethink our business model in places where the local economy is drying up and move toward subscription-based revenue. There are challenges, but I have confidence we will overcome and prevail. Our own survey says so. Read it. Digest it. Print it out and use it to shout from the rooftops the value of newspapers.

President George W. Bush said at the dedication of his Presidential library recently, "Life is service til the end."

The late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph."

Thatcher also said: "If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing."

Few have the courage to speak the truth. Telling the truth does not make you popular or wealthy, necessarily, but it's the right thing to do.

Let me end by reminding you about Will, my special needs friend I told you about last year who has Down Syndrome. Will can’t speak very well, but he can play the piano by ear. And I told you about him getting to sit down at that 4,000-pipe organ at a big downtown church and him playing “O Come All Ye Faithful” perfectly at Christmastime for his Sunday School class.

Well, I saw Will’s Mom the other day and she said, “Will hit a homerun!” And I said, “Great!”

Days later I saw Will’s brother Ford and I said, “Did you hear, Will hit a home run.”

And Ford looks at me with a big smile and says, “To Will, every hit is a homerun.”

So, like Will, make every hit a homerun!

MPA-MPS President James E. Prince III is president of Prince Newspaper Holdings, Inc. and publisher and editor of The Neshoba Democrat.

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