New and old Press industries in the Portuguese contemporary press

This project aims to assess the evolving scenario of the contemporary Portuguese written press by gauging the factors that have both encouraged the success of new titles and the demises, as well as, the lessons to be learned from failure and accomplishment cases of newspaper titles. This will be achieved by establishing a database of new entries on the market for written press titles as well as failed startups in the country during the democratic era.

The time frame of analysis, ranging from 1974 to 2009, will enable to determine and contrast three distinct periods of the Portuguese contemporary press system: a) the aftermath of the establishment of the democracy in the country back in 1974 dictatorship, which comprised the re-establishment of basic liberties, abolition of censorship, and nationalization of the media previously in the hands of economic groups and entities with close ties to the old regime; b) the privatization and commercialization period which started in the late 1980s following the Portuguese accession to the European Community up to the 1990s characterized by the re-privatization of government-owned newspapers, the liberalization of the media system and consolidation of national communication groups; and c) the impact of the digitalization and multimedia convergence in the XXI century until 2009 – when the latest entrant in the home press market, the daily newspaper ‘i’, was launched – marked by unprecedented innovation efforts and investment in re-designing and adapting newspapers, changing news gathering and dissemination practices. In this initial phase of the project, the focus lies on the daily and weekly written generalist and specialized newspapers with a national range. We have selected newspapers to start with bearing in mind that it is those business models that have probably changed most amongst news organizations. In a longer perspective, however, we aim to extend the study to cover all entries on the Portuguese newspaper market for the same period. Against this background, we expect this project to contribute in explaining successful entries on markets and survival of press titles, as well as, the reason(s) for failures of other entrants. We also want to find trends in niche strategies, suggestions on business renewal and explanations of how media companies differentiate their strategies to gain access to resources and limit themselves from strategic responses and direct competition.

Among others, it seeks to answer the following questions: What are the motivations of investing in the market Portuguese written press market? What business strategies are newcomers adopting in order to make their news products important and useful to audiences as well as sustainable business models? Are new titles proposing distinctive products so as to fulfill unmet demands of the audiences and niche markets or tend to imitate existing ones, in order to benefit from competition, and resulting in excessive sameness? Why are newspapers dying or being merged? Is it a question of their products being surpassed by better ones, poor managerial options, a faulty business model or capital issues interference in the operation? To this end, it explores recent efforts of market-driven news outlets impact in terms of theories and practices of media economics, media management and journalism. More concretely, it will examines changes in contemporary newspaper industry in Portugal from media related economic theory on the conceptualization of failure. This will be achieved by looking at the business of newspapers through the market model but without disregarding the specific public policies that govern the media in the Portuguese setting as well as the implications and broader consequences for society. Indeed, the analysis of the successive and important changes in the Portuguese press over the last thirty five years must be set within the scope of political and social restraints, to which those of technological, cultural and other natures should also be added.

Ultimately, it will provide a diagnosis of the processes and factors which may lead to success or failure in the newspaper business in Portugal as compared to other national press systems. In particular, this will be done contrasting the Portuguese results with a similar project on the Nordic countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland conducted at the Media Management and Transformation Centre at the Jönköping International Business School in Sweden. Such an assessment is likely to have significant implications for both the field literature and the provision of information democratic societies. Above all, it will offer significant clues on the sustainability and viability of newspapers companies in Portugal and changes portend for the future of established ones.

Principal Investigator: Rui Novais
Funded by FCT: PTDC/CCI-COM/122387/2010
Development: 2012-2014