One of our printing customers includes the following observation just above the signature line on all his emails: “To say you don’t need newspapers because you’ve got the internet …
One of our printing customers includes the following observation just above the signature line on all his emails: “To say you don’t need newspapers because you’ve got the internet is like saying you don’t need farmers because you’ve got a grocery store.”
In almost every community the local paper is the first recorder of news. Little Joe Brown might have hit a home run at last week’s Pee Wee game, but only a few are going to know about it until it is reported in the hometown paper.
Yes, there is always going to be a digital element to the news reporting from now on. But unless that digital source meets print’s standards of balanced reporting, fact checking and professional editing it will never have the credibility attached to print.
So why is the printed paper, the long-acknowledged source for information about everything happening in the community, overshadowed by endless digital websites, Facebook pages and blogs?
In 2018, the entire U.S. news industry — print and broadcast — made an estimated $5.1 billion from digital advertising. And those dollars were spread out across scores of companies. It was of little help during an age where all newsrooms were cutting jobs and many small-town papers closed their doors forever.
Meanwhile, according to a report from the News Media Alliance, Google almost matched the industry’s total digital-ad revenue with $4.7 billion simply providing search engine assistance to finding that locally-produced news. That number only represents the income from advertising on the Google website. It does not include the value of personal data Google gathers when users click on news articles.
While the local paper collects and clearly presents the news, it is Google and not the hometown that’s getting wealthy off the tedious detail work. As it has often been said, people go to the internet to find out details about a story. But most often they earlier had learned about the story in their newspaper.
We need, as an industry, to believe in ourselves and tell our story.
No other information source has the reach of our publications. Broadcast, digital and social media are targeted and cannot. The local paper provides much needed continuity.
Locally written and edited papers are the most reliable link to the past, as well as the most dependable source of informative details regarding what is happening that day or week. The community newspaper provides continuity across various community interest groups, as well as from generation to generation.
The hometown paper also encourages local cooperation. As the media connecting with the greatest number of local families, the paper is in a position to educate, encourage and clearly explain “why” something is happening or needs to happen in the community. Through solid news coverage and editorials, the newspaper provides citizens with the reasons to cooperate to help make possible changes. Or, why they should not.
Today’s electronic media is overloaded with as many differing opinion blog sites, ideas and voices — many of them shortsighted and biased — as there are stars in the sky
Local communities need their community newspaper to bring everyone’s ideas together.
Newspapers also assure credibility. A newspaper’s future depends on earning and keeping the respect of local readers, advertisers and community leaders. Newspapers cannot afford to get the facts wrong or to take sides when reporting a story. A newspaper’s reputation depends upon its credibility.
You will often hear someone saying with a scoff, “It must be true, I saw it on the internet!” But when the same person says “I read it in the paper,” he is sharing the information as a fact.
And finally, the men and women who own, manage and produce a local newspaper live and raise their families in the town where they are doing business. They are committed to making their town and region the best possible place to live, work and invest.
The paper’s commitment to building a better community makes the local publication the town’s leading cheerleader for all important events and projects. Hometown newspapers support community with their stories, donated advertising space, time and often their own dollars.
Now how can Google match that?
(Peter W. Wagner is the co-founder and co-publisher of Iowa Information Publishers and Printers, which owns multiple newspapers in Iowa.)