Empower Network Blog July 2012

In the summer of 2012 I kept a blog at Empower Network, a multi-level marketing company that has since crashed and burned. Like many others, I bought into the hype. Keeping the blog honed my writing skills, and taught me a few things about online marketing, if nothing else. So I decided to hold onto the posts.

Printed newspapers: A dispensable idea?

by The Rambler | on July 3, 2012

As blogging and online marketing become more and more the wave of the future, some classic ideas are getting thrown by the wayside. The printed newspaper, for example, is quickly becoming a vintage item and many people think it will not survive in the future. Here’s why I think it will.

A subscriber to an online edition would probably be very reluctant to hand over his smart phone or laptop so that his friend could read an article in the “paper” to which he subscribed, yet the so-called fuddy-duddy who reads his printed edition over morning tea is considered more reluctant because he won’t accept new trends. Who is the resistant one? I’d say it’s the one reading the news on his laptop, tablet, phone or e-reader. He paid good money for that device. He has reservations about how it’s used. He’s not going to leave it on the table of the local diner when he’s done with the article he read on it, because it’s not just his newspaper. It also holds all his downloaded programs, his email and Internet access, his personal gallery, his social networks.

Yes, the one who reads an article online or in an e-edition could easily share it via social media or email, but there is another problem that emerges when this happens. The one who is receiving the article, even if they are present, does not get the article placed right in front of them. He will have to get to it the next time he is on his device of choice. The only solution to this dilemma is to become inseparable from that device, but that presents a whole new list of problems.

While periodicals are trying to make their publications more and more indispensable by making them digitally ubiquitous, the value of a printed newspaper remains in the fact that it is dispensable. You can just throw it away when you’re done with it; you don’t think much about picking up a newspaper because you’re not going to think much about throwing it away — unlike the e-reader, tablet, or other digital device you may have just reluctantly purchased.

The actual reader base for an exclusive online edition of a newspaper will be pretty much the same as the number of subscribers (because the paper is read on a personal device); whereas one printed newspaper is usually read by numerous people. And in the big picture it’s really all about the actual readership, not the number of subscribers. The more people you get to spread the word about what they just read in your paper, the more popularity the paper has, and popularity leads to investors and advertisers coming to you.

Even though fewer people may subscribe to printed editions, the fact is per subscription more people will be reading them. There will be people at the local coffee shop handing it to the stranger they just heard talking about an issue pertinent to the front page article. There will be relatives taking the article off the refrigerator door because it has their nephew’s or grandson’s name in it. And just as a side note, try framing an online article. It’s just not the same. It doesn’t have that loose leaf, hot off the press feel to it. It’s just not reminiscent of the days that made journalism profound.

Newspapers should want to get their words out there in every effective way possible. The more venues the better. So I’m not saying there should be just printed publications. There shouldn’t be just digital ones either though.

There was a time when people thought TV would make radio obsolete, but that’s still far from happening. Even if all radio stations do start streaming online, if they abandoned their radio base they’d become one-dimensional.

People say things change, and we have to just move on. I agree to an extent because eventually there always comes a time for change, but we should never accept change just for the sake of change. Just because an idea is new and seems better in many respects doesn’t mean it’s going to stand the test of time. Classic ideas that are tried and true will thus always have their place.

Also, printed publications simply employ more people than online ones. You need someone working on the press, you need a circulation manager, sometimes even a paper boy. Some people may see that as a drawback, as just more overhead costs, but that’s just from an employer’s perspective. I say the more jobs we can create the better.

Also, the more versatility in dialogue the better. Why not have both digital and printed newspapers? The versatile readership community that will emerge can only make society more educated.

Some people also argue that it’s time to enter a new era of literacy and communication. They compare modern times to the era when the written word was becoming more and more popular, thus making oral traditions more obsolete. I think that argument would fall apart if we knew how much we’ve lost by letting go of oral tradition. Today we memorize our favorite songs, movie scenes and what not, while back then they memorized epic poems that defined their culture. They weren’t dependent on even a book, let alone a smart phone. Talk about independence. How independent are we if we rely on our laptop to give us our knowledge? We feel like we’re smart because we could access facts with the click of a button, but how much do we know independently? Can we recite the D of I or the Constitution off the top of our heads? Do we have the most popular verses and passages of Shakespeare and Mark Twain memorized? Those who cherished oral tradition several centuries ago would have memorized that much. I fear that something equally important will be lost if we abandon printed publications.

Here’s another point. Some say newspapers are killing too many trees. But in truth, paper mill companies are more efficient in forestation than perhaps anyone else because for every tree they chop down they replant ten seeds. We are the stewards of the earth. We assume that nature is best off when we leave her alone, but in fact she needs us to utilize her resources to keep her fresh. If you leave a tool on the shelf and don’t use it, it begins to rust. Paper and lumber mills are the number one advocates for the health of forests, because the very profit and livelihood of the mills rely on the forests.

Lastly, the newspaper is still the poor man’s college. No matter how little money you have, you should always have a right to educate yourself. Few sources of education are as accessible as the printed newspaper. That’s the way it has been for about three centuries, and that’s the way it will be until mankind discovers something more dispensable than paper.