Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trouble In The Fourth Estate

By Allen Bacon
The Daily Bosco

Along with a lot of industries and businesses recently, the newspaper industry is taking a serious hit. Papers like the once mighty Chicago Tribune are operating way south of the black. My home county paper The Orange County Register seems like it's going through the motions until somebody buys them out. And revenues are down, readership is down...interest is down.

This was inevitable. We live in a different world than the Father of the Free Press in the United States, Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin didn't have to compete with the blogosphere, CNN, Fox News, the internet, and all news radio. We live in a world of instant gratification and if we can't get our news as it happens, well we get a little irritated....we don't have time to wait for the printed version the next day.

Still I feel a little nostalgic and a little sad about the erosion of the newspaper as I knew it. I'm also a bit of a hypocrite. This morning I look around the local cafe where I usually write my columns on my laptop and I see people reading actual newspapers but I got my news this morning from the internet version and listening to the radio (via Bosco Radio: News over the internet...) Then, what I do is usually swoop in like a vulture and grab up the remaining carcass of somebody elses newspaper...a newspaper I didn't buy. I don't even currently have a subscription to a newspaper. But I'm not the only one that does that.

Then I got to thinking. Nobody asked me to consult the newspaper industry. But I have a plan.

First of all the newspapers, need to realize that the newspaper as we know it is going to lose popularity. As I look around the restaurant this morning...the people reading the newspapers are my age (50's) and older. The younger generation, as a general rule, isn't getting their news like this anymore. So the readership of the traditional paper is going to erode as we get older. So focus needs to go to the newer ways of getting, internet, blogs, radio, television, etc.

That being said....I work in the printing industry and this phenomenon is sort of like what we have been experiencing with the business forms segment of the market. With people having the ability to create their own forms, electronically, and printed, there is an erosion of business forms sales. There is still a market...and I still print a lot of forms but the sales are dwindling. So you have to get creative with marketing within the segment while looking for more profitable segments.

So, when it comes to selling ads for the printed newspaper, the newspaper industry really needs to focus on the fact that the average newspaper is passed through more than one hand in it's daily life. That's the real number....the real circulation. If you can get that data...the ad revenue should increase.

The printed newspaper should offer articles that you can't get any place else. Currently most newspapers have this backwards. They advertise content on their webpages...driving readers away from the printed version. The web version should have exclusive content, but the printed version should have it's own content that you can't get on the web.

Then I got to thinking that newspapers as companies don't really need to lose money. There is a wealth of talent and machines in any given newspaper. They can set up divisions to write PR and create advertising and print general job printing. There is no reason for the talent and machines to go to waste when the newspaper isn't being printed.

You know what I miss most? The local newspaper. I don't know about your town, but even the "local" newspapers in my town have content from other towns. Leave that to the big metro papers. When I read my "local" newspaper I want news about my town...exclusively.

Printed Newspapers are still cool...a throwback. I hope they continue to be around for a while. And I never have a problem downloading them...that is unless I don't have enough quarters or the news rack is jammed.

No comments: