Publisher's Pick: Nimble newspapers meet readers' new needs
The trade publication headline screamed at me in large, bold, black ink: "Newspaper Biz Ain’t for Sissies." Although politically and grammatically incorrect, I too assert, "Ain’t that the truth?" at least from my 43-year perspective of newspapering.
Back in the day — an apt phrase foreign to me until I came to Minnesota four years ago — I had no idea that my chosen profession would have many industry peaks and valleys. Upon reflection, I should have known.
I began my career in the late 1960s just as the clunky, noisy linotype and hot metal casting equipment gave way to new industry-changing technology. What was known then as the "cold type" printing method — a clean, quiet, efficient photographic printing process — forever changed the newspaper publishing industry and became the precursor to desktop publishing.
Today, web-based publishing and the advent and acceptance of social media as information-sharing platforms continue to challenge "legacy" publishers like myself. While I profess a huge fondness for ink-on-paper publishing, I marvel at the opportunities that online, mobile, tablet and social media publishing represent.
Not going away
Two weeks ago I attended a two-day conference in Chicago produced annually by the Inland Daily Press Association. The days were filled with information sessions led by media experts, consultants and publishing peers from large metropolitan newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and community newspapers, not unlike the Post-Bulletin.
The quality of the presentations, panel discussions and demonstrations ranged from invigorating and inspiring to the occasional clunker. I knew somewhere among the glibness that I would hear Mark Twain’s chestnut of a quote as it might pertain to newspapers, "The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated." I was not disappointed: Twain’s words were uttered by a speaker during the first morning of the conference.
Daily newspapers DO NOT have a readership problem. They have a perception problem. Fact: Local print and online publishers reach more people every day than any other single medium within its marketplace. This fact is particularly true in southeast Minnesota, where readership of the Post-Bulletin combined with PostBulletin.com reaches a guaranteed average of 130,000 adults every day. That’s more than any other local information medium.
Well, OK, maybe not on Sundays, since I publish a hefty Weekend edition delivered on Saturday. However, the P-B staff provides important online breaking news updates even on Sunday, when I don’t publish a print edition.
Case in point: It was the diligent P-B staff that was the first news team last Sunday to report online the finding of a body in the Zumbro River that morning. The P-B’s always-first reputation leads people to continually check the P-B’s website. We counted more than 7,000 hits on the P-B website Sunday, and heavier-than-usual web traffic to this unfolding story has continued through these past few days.
More for your money
I admire the power of the word "More" nowadays. This one word has become the key theme in defining the power of the Post-Bulletin in this marketplace. Perhaps you have seen the large-space full-color announcement ads printed in the P-B featuring me, once again, perched upon a stool and flogging a generous list of new content additions to the PB this past month.
The "More" campaign has been supplemented with a television and radio campaign. Why do I employ other media to promote the Post-Bulletin? The print campaign supplemented with radio and TV spots will continue until I feel confident that both readers and non-readers alike have gotten the "More" message. It is as important for advertisers as readers to know about investments being made in the Post-Bulletin to attract and retain readers.
Fortunately, perceptions are improved through a combination of research-based hard facts about the quality and quantity of P-B readership combined with a positive and trusting working relationship earned over time.
There’s a huge benefit for readers as well. Advertising as newspaper content ranks high in interest to P-B readers in this day and age of needing to know where to find availability, special prices and money-saving deals on goods and services.
Back to that perception problem that newspapers face: I was heartened to learn some gratifying information at the Inland conference.
The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism released the findings from a recent national study of the importance of the local newspaper. According to Pew, newspapers — in print and online — rank as the top source for news on community events, crime, taxes, local government, arts and culture, social services, and zoning and development.
Without this information readily and inexpensively available in your daily newspaper, what would community life be like?