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Setting it straight; digital newspaper subscriber responds December 31, 2018

Posted by jimstafford in Uncategorized.
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I recently shared my thoughts in this blog on the current struggles of the newspaper industry and frustrations that I have little to offer as far as solutions to reverse the trend.

I used my friend Casey as an example of smart young potential readers who have found their news sources elsewhere.

After the blog post was published, I discovered that I did Casey a disservice.  

Turns out, even though he’s great with snarky one-liners about the newspaper industry (for my benefit as an old newspaper guy), he still reads the daily newspaper online.

Casey told me that he is a newsok.com “pro” subscriber to the online version of The Oklahoman.  And he comes from a family of longtime newspaper readers and subscribers.

So, I asked him to share his thoughts on what type of content the newspaper should offer readers.  Here is what he said:

“I go to the newspaper when I want a more in-depth, more trustworthy source. Instead of instant alerts, I think they need to slow their content even more; give me more detail and deeper journalism. Heavily researched.  Articles more like what you would find in a magazine, almost.”

Casey was responding to what I wrote about young people seeking only online news alerts and instant headlines instead of deeper newspaper coverage.  

Of course, newspapers continue to struggle, despite the support of individuals like Casey.  The Oklahoman announced in its Dec. 27 editions that it was trimming its circulation area and eliminating street sales. 

Casey broke my stereotype of the typical young American who only learns what’s happening in the world (or their local community) through social media interactions.

And he likes the paper.  He really, really likes it.

“For my money, real reporters work for the newspaper,” he told me.

Wow. Casey, I salute you.  And I promise not to throw you under the bus again, even if you zing me with a snarky one-liner.  

 

 

I wish I had a magic potion to restore fading newspaper glory December 17, 2018

Posted by jimstafford in Uncategorized.
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My friend Casey recently told me that the newspaper is great for when you want to know what happened 24 hours ago. 

Ouch!

As a former newspaper guy who started his career on a manual typewriter back in 1978, Casey’s honest truth really hurt.  

No one is wanting the newspaper — all of them — to succeed more than me. But I see what’s happening all over the country (and world, I guess). People are seeking their news sources online with instant alerts for which they aren’t likely to pay a dime.

There’s nothing earthshaking in that news. It’s a reality that we all know. How many people under the age of 30, no, 40, no, 50 are newspaper subscribers? A handful; 5 percent? 1 percent? 

In fact, Pew Research recently released results of a survey that showed more people now get their news content via social media than the newspaper.

My friend Casey is roughly 30 years old. He prefers instant updates and free content.

Some of my former newspaper colleagues are discouraged because they are convinced that if the paper would just (insert remedy of choice), subscribers would come back. I’m afraid that ain’t happening.

Subscribing to a newspaper takes commitment, financially and in time.  It’s the model from, oh, 1990 and earlier. Young people aren’t buying it, literally. You know why? They were never newspaper subscribers in the first place.

I wish I had a magic potion.  

My ideas tend to run toward things like a cool app similar to that of Starbucks where I can put money on my account ahead of time and draw it down as I consume coffee (or, newspaper content). 

More analysis and less breaking news from 24 hours ago might help. But there’s always that obstacle of free content.

So what’s the answer?  The papers (all of them collectively) are going to have to figure out a way to make their online content so alluring that folks like Casey would be willing to make a small monthly investment. 

That’s the model that The Athletic sports site is pursuing, although I think it’s too early to call it a success. 

That still doesn’t keep the presses running.  

Meanwhile, I’ll just fetch the latest edition of the paper off my driveway for as long as it lasts. I don’t want the physical newspaper to disappear, even though I can access it online. 

I’m from Generation Past.

Once upon a time, virtually every house on my block had a paper out in the driveway before daylight.  Now it’s only on my driveway and one or two others.

Recently, I was at a local hospital waiting on my daughter’s appointment when a nurse came by. I was reading my paper.

“Ooh, we don’t see many of those around here these days,” she said. “Where did you get it?”

I had some breaking news for her.

“Off my driveway this morning,” I said.

Then there is my friend Casey, who assures me he loves the newspaper and always has. “Just not enough to subscribe to it,” he said.

Ouch.