Back to their roots

February 28, 2009

Another newspaper down. This time in Colorado. My heart goes out to those journalists and others across the country who fear for their jobs. And to all those in nearly every industry right now who feel constant uncertainty…job security is now an oxymoron.


But I am starting to feel that newspapers were all too slow in changing their business model. Now in this crisis situation, thoughtful decision-making may not happen. Kind of like buying a car because yours broke down and the absurd repair bill makes it more sensible to buy another. Here you are without wheels, and places to go! You buy the first good deal you find; no research, no shopping around and sometimes you end up with a lemon.


I think it’s time the papers—and the public—make the dramatic paradigm shift we all need. Our “brick and mortar” world is shrinking as more and more of us function online. Case in point: this week I clothes-shopped online at three different stores. I’m not the kind of shopper who needs to walk around a mall to feel satisfied. If I can get right to what I need/want efficiently, I am satisfied. Luv the Internet!


Same with news. There are so many sites with 24/7 news offerings, we can stay in the know without buying papers. Personally, I still prefer to read a paper, but I also go to several online news sources during a day.


For those online news sources to be reliable, journalists and writers with ethics who want to validate facts before going public and who, generally, remain unbiased, must staff them. (Something most young journalists need to work on, in my opinion.)


That leads me to paying for service. Perhaps it is time to tax Internet use. We all pay to use the Internet already because we need an Internet Service Provider (ISP), in my case Comcast. I’m not an economic analyst, but let’s say every ISP customer pays an extra $5 a month; $60 a year. With an estimated 3 million U.S. population (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html), that means $1.8 billion in revenue to fund news sites. Maybe the ISPs match that amount, something they cannot pass onto their customers.


As I blogged about before, I think it’s time for the local papers to become weeklies…again. Back to their roots. Sunday papers sell because they include a feature, often investigative in nature, the local feel good stuff like weddings and anniversaries, along with the stores’ sale circulars. They can cut costs and pool resources so not every brick and mortar shop has print and production resources. Regionalize that aspect of the business.


It’s time; it is past time, for all industries and all of us as individuals, to tighten up. Working together, sharing resources, paying reasonable fees for things we use means we access the services and products we need, we can trust the providers of those services and our country is more solvent because of it.


Not saying that single change is the answer to all our economic woes. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy? <sigh> But I believe it’s a good place to start and provides a model other industries could consider.


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