Keeping up with the Robinsons
In July 2009, in the midst of one of the most challenging advertising climates in modern times, the Robinson family of Waco, Texas made a significant investment in the newspaper industry by acquiring their hometown Waco (TX) Tribune-Herald from Cox Enterprises.
The acquisition by the Robinson family, who professed to have no experience in the newspaper industry prior to the purchase, represents the only daily newspaper acquisition by a non-newspaper owner in the past four years outside of Cablevision’s purchase of Newsday in 2008.
DV&M reconnected with Gordon Robinson, president of Robinson Media Company, nearly two years after his family’s purchase of the paper to see how the acquisition was going and to get his take on the future of the industry.
Prior to your purchase of the Waco Tribune-Herald two years ago, your family’s business background was in the insurance industry. Has your foray into newspaper ownership been what you expected it would be? Our purchase of the Waco Tribune-Herald has been extremely rewarding due to the enormous positive impact we have on our community. Our mission to bring center right editorials and opinions has been wildly accepted. The news is the news and our professional staff does a wonderful job of properly reporting. We expected wide acceptance of our conservative philosophy and have been wonderfully rewarded by ever increasing readership and subscriptions. You purchased the paper in the midst of one of the most challenging economic environments in recent history. How has the operation fared? Our subscriptions are dramatically increasing, however; our revenues have declined. At this point we feel the big decreases are behind us and revenue will return to more profitable levels. We are still operating in the black and still feel the investment holds great promise.
As a relative newcomer to the industry, what lessons have you learned about the business over the past two years? Have there been any surprises? We have learned that revenue can fall out of bed overnight leaving you with a helpless feeling, especially when your product is being well received in the community. We feel that the people in the business need to learn new ways of selling our product and be especially sensitive to the needs of our subscribers and advertisers. The biggest surprise has been the lack of hysteria in the business crashing all around and continuing to operate as if nothing is wrong - perhaps operating with the old arrogance of the general media.
Newspaper publishers across the county have differing views on the future of the industry. Where do you see the newspaper industry five years from now? How will the Waco Tribune-Herald have evolved? We don’t think the industry will materially change for the worse in five years; however, out further in the future it will definitely change as readers die off and the newer internet generations emerge. We feel the industry will evolve into the new age rather slowly; however, we will eventually evolve altogether. The Waco Tribune-Herald hopes are to be on the leading edge of whatever the future holds.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your hometown newspaper? Hearing and seeing the praise of the majority who love “In God We Trust” on the masthead of our paper. Also, the encouragement of the community of local ownership expressing conservative views.