Monday, October 25, 2010

Small victories & a T-Rex (roar)

So... long time, no post.

Sometimes it seems this newspaper gig is a losing battle - not just in terms of producing a successful newspaper but also in convincing people what you do is worthwhile.

Today I had an epiphany. I credit the neighbor who told me newspapers are dinosaurs. But what I am is not a newspaperman. I'm a journalist whose current employable position has a printed version as its primary medium.

It is up for debate whether newspapers are dying (aka are dinosaurs), but journalism is not dying. People will continue to want news reported (good and bad), watchdogs on government kept and general interest stories told.

Financial sustainability in the current media forms is the tricky part. For decades, print and broadcast journalism has adapted its story-telling methods through visual & audio aids in addition to writing styles and even delivery style. The current problem is so many newspapers are operating on an outdated business model. But I digress.

So I'm going to start defining/identifying myself as a journalist from now on and respond to the "newspapers are dead" comments with solutions like "We're still alive right now, dead is past tense and newspapers still exist" and "We're working on alternatives to the print product but for many it's still sustainable."

I also believe there is still, and will continue to be, a place for the front page in some way shape or form.

Case in point - driving to work each day I past a cafe with three newspaper racks on its porch: my weekly local newspaper, the regional metro daily newspaper and USA Today. Today I saw a man putting change into the regional metro daily, but while doing so he stared at my weekly local the entire time. There was something (no sticky note ads this week) that was drawing his attention to that page. He would not otherwise pick up that newspaper unless something sparked his interest.

My weekly recently received first place in general excellence of weeklies its size in the state and second place in best-front-to-back design in the same category. It was a proud moment, but what irked me was the comment from the judge: "Despite the rather unattractive display of story teases cornering the flag. Otherwise nice job!"

That "unattractive display of story teases" sells newspapers. Since we created 10 to 13 entry points above the fold each week, single-copy sales and subscriptions have increased.

The metro daily won first place front-to-back design and third place front-page design, receiving the comment "Color usage throughout the paper is strong. Good combination of elements." Most days it's difficult to find something relevant to anything local and there are typically less than five entry points above the fold (when ads aren't covering the front page). Meanwhile, it's my understanding that the metro daily is floundering.

I was disappointed that my newspaper did not place in best news content while the metro daily received first in its category with the comment: "Bright writing and a strong mix of local, world and national news. Wide content variety has something for everybody."I take issue with that because most things you see in that newspaper are yesterday's news from Timbuktu. When I drive be a newspaper rack, there is little incentive to pick up the newspaper. If it's world or national news I actually care about, I usually already know about it.

Sorry, got into a rant there.

Back to the positive - the small victories - that would be the first in general excellence and seeing the man stare down the local newspaper in the rack.

If newspapers are dinosaurs, then I'm living in Jurassic Park.

No comments:

Post a Comment