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Editor’s note: This week is National Newspaper Week. Since the 1940s, the Newspaper Association Managers group has sponsored National Newspaper Week. It’s a week-long celebration and recognition of the important role of newspapers in their communities. The theme is “Newspapers - the print and online connector for today’s communities.”
The way that people consume information is changing rapidly, and I hear frequently that the death of newspapers is imminent. I think that people feel this way because they aren’t regular newspaper readers or they just don’t think that other people read newspapers as much as they did ten years ago. If they’re referring to the printed newspaper, they are usually correct.
We’ve seen printed newspaper circulation declines for more than ten years. However, many of us in the industry are, slowly but surely, realizing that we’re not in the printed paper business, but in the information business. This transformation of our attitude about print has not been easy. Many of us like our printed paper traditions, and many readers are very loyal. Printed newspapers often sell out after elections, weather disasters and other significant events. People still buy copies of the newspaper when their child makes the honor roll or their team has a win, and for many, the newspaper obituary is the defining memorial for a loved one. Printed newspapers are one of the few mediums where people actually look forward to the advertising, and research indicates that ads are a desired part of the experience. The ritual of reading a Sunday paper continues to be strong, and many community newspapers have experienced circulation stability and even growth in the past decade. But there is no question that the circulation of the daily print newspaper is down and still declining. The value of instant information on the internet is readily apparent.
While many of my friends still value their printed newspapers, their grown children often get their news via the internet, and increasingly, on their cell phones. The good news for people who like the information they get from newspapers and want to see it continue is that in most American markets the number one source for local information is the newspaper’s website. A recent comScore survey ranked local newspaper websites first among all sources for trustworthiness, credibility and most informative place to find local content of all types, including news, information, entertainment and sports. Newspaper websites have the devoted readership that many advertisers covet. While newspapers are still figuring out the best formula for monetizing their new products in the changing world of media consumption, the fact that more people than ever are reading their combined products will ultimately assure their longevity.
The way that people get their information is changing, but newspapers usually have more reporters than all other organizations combined in almost every community and no one covers local news better. Newspapers will continue to report the news that is relevant to their community. We can be assured of continued change, but we can also expect that newspapers will be around tomorrow, providing local information better than everyone else in a multitude of options.
Editor’s note: This editorial was written by Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association and a former publisher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.