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What is the future of newspapers? - Comments (0)
Melanie Brubaker Mazur - 4/3/2009
What is the future of newspapers?
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure.
I think newspapers will continue to play a vital function in U.S. society, but I think the emphasis on “papers” will continue to wane, being replaced by the focus on “news.”
Those of us who own little weeklies and dailies are, for the most part, holding our own. A news article in last week’s Times reported on the quarterly findings by the Suburban Newspaper Association and National Newspaper Association that its member papers reported a 6.6 percent decline in advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to 2007.
Compared to the big dailies, and even the other business owners in the area I’ve talked to, a 6.6 percent decline is pretty darned good for this economy. We can live with that.
Most smaller papers, like the big dailies, have tried to make our Internet editions profitable, but we haven’t figured out how to make them as profitable as our print edition.
One thing we small weeklies have is content that you can’t find anywhere else. You cannot find coverage of the Bayfield and Ignacio school boards and town boards anywhere except the Pine River Times. Even the Durango Herald, which has a large newsroom and covers some events here, doesn’t consistently cover our boards. We also provide more coverage of county government than any other newspaper in the area. We put some of our content online, but not all of it, to encourage readers to actually buy the newspaper.
This relentlessly local content is something the big city papers can’t replicate. We have a connection that they can’t beat, either. When Carole and I are at the grocery store or gas station or school board meeting or whatever, you tell us your story ideas, or what we screwed up in last week’s edition.
We’re your newspaper, and we’re very proud of that fact.
At the Times, we also try all kinds of different things to bring news quickly and accurately to our readers. We update our website daily if there’s breaking news. We send news, weather, sports, and community events to your cell phone or e-mail address so you know if Highway 160 is closed this morning. That service is free, but we ask sponsors to help defray the cost.
We’re looking at an electronic edition so people will receive all 10 or 12 pages of the paper quickly on their computers. We hope this will particularly appeal to our out-of-state readers who have to wait a week or two for their print editions to arrive.
A recent article in Time magazine predicted that people will start to pay 10 or 25 cents per article to start reading the news they want on their PDAs or Kindles or whatever the computer industry dreams up for reading electronically, the way folks pay $1 for a song now on iTunes.
I admit I’m a dinosaur. I like actually holding the paper in my hands and reading it with my cup of tea in the morning. My mom and I clip out articles to send to each other. I have a ton of recipes from newspapers filling my recipe box.
But I’m in my 40s, and my 9-year-old son is probably going to demand his news electronically because that’s the reality he is being raised in.
So we hope you’ll continue to support the Times as we brave the new electronic frontier. I don’t imagine we’ll quit printing our news on paper anytime soon, but the day may be coming that more of us move entirely to online or some hybrid of online-print editions.
In the meantime, we’ll keep printing our news on paper, so those of you who like the Times with your Friday lunch or dinner can continue to do so.
Thanks for reading.