Minden Press-Herald

Oct 02nd

Thinking Differently Is Not Just for Apple

DavemugI am at odds with my own industry — and they don't even know it. At a time when many newspapers are seeing declining revenues and circulation, one might think the end is near for the "fish wrapper."

In my "informed" opinion, that is hogwash. (For non-southerners, hogwash is a euphemism for a falsehood. For southerners, a euphemism is substituting one word or phrase for another.)

As someone who is far from retirement age, I find this belief quite disturbing. The idea that the career path you have chosen will soon be no more can be unsettling — unless you "Think Different." (Yes, I know is should be "differently." Just go with it.)

For years, the newspaper was the only information game in town. There might have been other outlets (Radio, TV,) but they generally took their cue (and stories) from the local newspaper. It was a great time — and we got lazy and arrogant.

We rocked along for decades, and our bottom lines looked great. Then came the Internet.

We scoffed at the idea of electronic media. We rejected placing our "works of art" online. We saw the "net" a merely a tool to help reporters gather the news — not provide the news.
With a void of news online, others stepped in — and began to capture our audience. As our numbers began to sink, we panicked.

Newspapers everywhere rushed to recapture the market by offering news online for free. Savvy subscribers realized they need not pay for news content any longer and thus the erosion of print continued.

Realizing the error of their ways, some newspapers tried to put the genie back into the bottle — with only limited success.

By throwing all their best resources into their online products — in hopes of recapturing those who left, they neglected the print readers who were still faithful.

Throughout this "chicken little" process, newspapers lost what made them great in the first place — service to their communities.

At one time, newspapers in communities all over America told the story of life. They were engaged with their readers and advertisers, taking a vested interest in their mutual success. Sure the newspaper was the watchdog over government, but it wasn't sensationalized like it is today.

Some of the strongest bonds in business were created between advertising salespeople and their clients. Salespeople had the best interest of their clients at heart, and clients relied on their expertise.

Somewhere between the era of arrogance and the era of panic, these bonds were severely damaged.

Apple went through some of these same pains.

In a world that embraced PC clones running Windows, Apple (without Steve Jobs) tested the "clone waters." It was a miserable failure. These inferior machines did not perform to the high standards current Apple users expected, and they were ineffective in luring PC owners.

Apple (Now, with Jobs) went back to what made them great — innovative and high quality products.

Our industry needs to do the same. We need to get back to our primary purpose — service to our communities. While the exact form of that service is up for discussion, the basic premise is not. If we put our communities ahead of our bottom lines, our bottom lines will begin to climb once again.

It may be too late to salvage things in some communities. However, in the majority of communities across this great nation, people still want their hometown newspaper. They also want their hometown newspaper to care about them, support their causes and improve things.

We should want those same things. If not, then maybe the end truly is near.

David Specht Jr. is Vice President of Specht Newspapers, Inc. and Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. View his blog at www.DavidASpecht.com.






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