No Paper … No Problem

Something I’m sure the Time-Union doesn’t want to hear.  The carrier missed us again this morning.  It happens more often than I’d really like to mention, but I’ve gotten past the point of calling and complaining about it.  It doesn’t seem to do any good.  Even though they promise to bring a paper within the hour, it never really seems to happen, and I’ve gotten past the point of being mad about it.  I should call to just have it added on to the end of the subscription, but I never keep track of those things.

Instead, I took the laptop over to the breakfast table and read everything online that I would have read in the paper.

What did I miss?  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

If I decided to forgo the daily paper and read it online every day, the only think I’d miss is the Sunday crossword and ads.  The comics I could get online, but not the big Sunday puzzle.  But what I pay for a 7 day per week subscription to the paper is a lot for a Sunday crossword and a bunch of ads for stuff I don’t want or need.

This is the dilemma facing the entire newspaper industry.  Where do they draw the line … giving away the product they produce for free while convincing a few of us to continue to pay for it.

Sounds a lot like public radio.

The paper has to have an online presence.  The public demands it any more.  A lot of the content is produced specifically for online.  Blogs, including liveblogs for breaking news, video content … all created exclusively for online.  Then there’s the enterprise reporting, editorials, opinion pieces, the stuff we read the paper for.  Not ALL of it, mind you, but probably the lions’ share.  And they’re giving it away to anyone with an internet connection and a browser.  I’m not sure what the percentage of their operating budget comes from online advertising, but the way newspapers in general have cut editorial staff in the past few years, it can’t be that great.

So to have the carrier miss this entire neighborhood when it’s so easy for us to find the exact same content for free is probably not a great idea.

I’m just sayin’

-0-

The newspaper business if facing a whole new set of realities, beginning with a declining subscriber base and shrinking advertising revenue.  Part of the latter is directly related to the former … but businesses will cut advertising before they cut people.  Smaller profit margins almost always mean the media see lower advertising revenue.

We broadcasters are facing much the same situation.  Even in the non-profit sector.  We depend on underwriting for a large portion of our operating budget.  Underwriting comes from businesses who make donations for on-air acknowledgement.  That gets cut with all other forms of advertising.  Our realities are perhaps a little different from the print media, but a convergence is coming.  The traditional broadcast media is going to have to adjust to the realities of online appliances that could, in the far term, take the place of our radios, televisions, and transmitters.  I don’t know that the content will be all that different, but how people receive it, interact with it, and consume it will change.  I still think that for the local audience, local content will be very important at least for the news and information consumer.  We will need to continue to be local content providers for the audience that takes an interest in such things, and that may be a narrow niche.  Music is music, no matter what the source.  In some instances, a local host will make the difference.  But people wanting to listen to a specific kind of music might be able to scan hundreds of different internet radio stations to find just the mix they want.  And that’s only if they’re not interested enough to make their own mix.

Local news will still need a reporter to gather it, produce it, and present it to the audience regardless of how they finally actually consume the product.  The challenge we face, like the newspaper, is how do we continue to be relevant to our audience to the point that they’re willing to voluntarily donate a few sheckles every year to keep us going.

Pledge begins Saturday.  Wish us luck.

–scene–

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