The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

When most of the data regarding the future of newspapers is of the gloom-and-doom variety, good news tends to stand out. So it is with these two nuggets:

- The Newspaper Association of America finds that 8 out of 10 adults in major media markets still read their newspapers on a regular weekly basis. Granted, it's not fabulous news that daily papers are being accessed somewhat less than daily (just guessing, I'd say most on-the-go people--and aren't we all?--sit down with a paper every other day), but it is siginificant:

“The story here is that nearly 80 percent of adults are making a conscious decision each week to pick up a newspaper – that kind of reach is hard to beat,” said NAA President and CEO John Sturm. “Newspapers don’t happen to be ‘on’ when you’re in the room. If you’re reading a newspaper, you’re engaged in it – and eight in 10 people choose to be engaged each week.”

Engagement is the key here. TV and radio have an advantage over print and Internet media because they can be left on as background noise; in some ways, they're more effective that way, since ads with catchy tunes and/or imagery tend to worm their way into the subconscious better when they're under the radar. In order to get anything out of print and Internet media, you have to pick it up and put it in front of your eyeballs and process the info. Even if it's in a lazy manner, you're still putting forth some effort. So, this is good news for papers, in that people are considering them worthy of some time (and money) investment.

- Meanwhile, industry consulting firm Borrell Associates finds that the Internet, which has long been viewed as a potential killer of the newsprint business, is becoming a major revenue source for many papers, thanks in large part to early investments and subsequent establishment as local Web outlets. The migration of classified advertising to the Web is central to this; far from being the choking point for newspapers, it's pulling in the cash. I think this is natural, in that there is a real market for localized transactions. If you want to sell off some garage sale items, the idea of putting them up for bid on eBay and having to contend with all that, in addition to the likelihood of shipping, is not particularly appealing. Electronic classified handled through the local paper as a clearinghouse makes more sense (in fact, eBay has recognized this and has partnered with many papers across the country on classifieds).