Terry Egger: “You need the news. And now, more than ever, the news needs you”

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“You need the news. And now, more than ever, the news needs you”. With this statement, Terry Egger, Publisher and CEO, The Philadelphia Inquirer, PBC, began his presentation at iMEdD. He presented the 190 years history of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Jerry Lenfest’s decision to support the organization, through the launch of the non profit organization Lenfest Institute.

Terry Egger, among others, presented the organization’s priorities, which are high impact Journalism, news technology and innovation as well as diverse, growing audiences. He also discussed the need to change the perception that news should be for free. This derives from the rise of Internet and the belief that its content is for free and the aggregators. Terry suggested that news need to be a daily habit that readers enjoy, appreciate and are willing to pay for and compared it to the morning cup of coffee or espresso that consumers don’t think twice or hesitate to pay for something so simple and inexpensive to make. 

He stated that nowadays the news organizations have data that could be used to engage and inspire the audience. Due to this fact, they can now build a meaningful relationship with their audience and offer content that is interesting and value adding. As he noted, journalists are in the business of storytelling, but they cannot tell their own story in an engaging way for the audience. Journalists need to convey the message of who they are, why they hope that they have value and what is their role in order to ask for support by the audience.   

Terry Egger presented the need to change the sector in order to avoid “default death”. According to a recent Wall Street Journal, in the US if nothing changes in 3-5 years almost all the newspapers may be closed. It is important for news agencies to work together to increase their impact and compete effectively with the platforms for the ad spending. At the same time, the revenue streams should be enriched.

Revenue streams include sales and subscriptions but in the US there is also a key trend for donations and membership fees. In these cases, the donors clearly have no intervention to the content. Another strategy is entering the business of hosting “events” that bring together the journalists with the audience and increase revenues at the same time.

Terry closed his presentation with a statement by H. Gerry Lenfest:  “Are our Universities important to our community? Yes and we should support them.  Are our Art Museums and other Cultural Institutions important to us? Yes and we should support them.  Are any of them any more important than our local Investigative and Service Journalism?  No and we need to support that journalism in the same way!”