Friday, February 27, 2009

Not Dead Yet

Newspapers are alive and well — well struggling.

Today, my former Publisher and Friend Rick Bacon sent me something to puzzle over. 

Paul Tash, editor of the Poynter's St. Petersburg Times said, "Despite the carnage in the banking industry and despite the carnage in the automotive industry, no one is predicting a world without checking accounts or automobiles. So how come when some newspapers run into trouble, everyone is predicting the end of print?"

It's an interesting point. Many newspapers are surviving and thriving. I like to think community newspapers are still thriving. Sure, they feel the impact of the store of the corner closing. Today, I stopped at the local mall here in Del Rio, Texas. In less than a year, five stores have closed. That means five fewer businesses for sales representatives to call on every week. It means less potential revenue for the newspaper. 

The newspaper industry has changed a lot in recent years. People are moving away from the flimsy pages of newsprint with black and gray ink smudges. Today, newspaper readers can read most of America's newspapers online — in their pajamas while sipping their morning coffee. 

I'm guilty of it, too. After moving to Texas, I fluctuate between the hard copy of the newspaper and the online edition in my hometown. Convenience is the primary reason. While roaming around the country visiting relatives, the newspaper didn't get the message straight about the stop date for our subscription. I found a pile of dusty, sun-baked newspapers in the driveway one too many times. I also like my news a.m-style. I don't like the afternoon delivery five days a week. By looking online, I can catch the basics online before noon. 

I still enjoy the thrill of cracking open a newspaper and being enticed to buy it off the rack — because the headline is compelling. 

Online is giving me a thrill too. Instead of being limited to local news, it opens up regional, statewide and international news. It's all at my fingertips and as a news junkie, I love it. The sad thing for the newspaper business is that I don't pay a cent for my news fix. 

So, I understand what Mr. Tash was saying. The closings, the poor revenue predictions and the state of our communities does not mean the end for newspapers industry. But, the fact that ad revenues are falling and I'm not paying anything for my news doesn't help. 

I think banks have had time to absorb some of the changes to its industry. Community banks seem to be doing well, too. Here one is rebuilding. And, at the local mall, it's not a retail store moving into one of those vacant store front. It's a bank. Go figure.

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