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Keeping Newspapers from Going the Route of the Milkman

Today, I picked my newspaper up off the lawn and brought it in to my house to read with my coffee.  I didn’t have to take my daughter to school because of President’s Day, so I came back inside my house.

From all indications, this ritual is on the road to extinction.   Many reports predict that all newspapers will transform to on-line versions where readers can see the content on a PC, mobile device, tablet, cell phone, or other electronic piece.  Indeed, some newspapers have already gone that route, in the midst of many others folding.

Many of you may not be old enough to remember the milkman.  When I was little, competing dairies would deliver two bottles of milk, ice cream, butter, and other goods directly to your door.   Only one service still does that today, Schwann’s, and it has added many other food items and ready-to-eat meals in order to be profitable.   If we don’t intervene, the delivery of daily print newspapers will go the way of the milkman.

This does not have to be the case!  I am reminded in the now-classic work by Jim Collins, Good-to-Great, where he discusses the Hedgehog Concept.  Of the three components, one is “understanding the denominator that drives your economic engine.”  Or in other words,  what is it that keeps your lights turned on? 

For newspapers, this is not subscriptions.  The number of subscribers to daily and weekend newspapers continues to dwindle nationwide.  If the denominator were subscribers, print newspapers would be history. 

Clearly, the  economic factor is advertising.  As long as companies are willing to advertise in print editions of papers, we will still have them produced and delivered. 

If you love your paper delivered to your door, if you like picking it up off the lawn and taking it with you when you leave in the morning, the key is not to encourage your friends and co-workers to subscribe.  Rather, it is to frequent the advertisers who invest in the paper with your business, and further, to let them know that the ad they placed in the paper influenced your buying decision.  You can say at Macy’s, “I want to see the dress you advertised in the paper on Sunday,” which reinforces that is how you got there. 

The simplest way to reinforce print advertising is to use the coupons that businesses pay for to print, giving you discounts or tw0-for-one purchases.  If customers don’t use them, advertisers will stop paying for the newspapers to print them.  And, when advertisers stop paying for printing, that will turn out the lights for papers.

Think about that.  Do you really want a world where there are no print newspapers?  Where everyone stares at a cell phone or tablet on the bus?  Where you can’t sneak a peek at a headline and make a mental note to find more about it later?  Where you eat cereal with your spoon in one hand and your stylus in the other?  Where you have to send a link to a friend instead of clipping an article with a handwritte note and mailing it?  Really – do you also appreciate receiving e-Cards? 

Not me.  I’ve got my coupons from Saturday’s and Sunday’s paper.  I’m ready to turn them in this week.  I want to support print editions. 

The good news is that there are plenty of households that still subscribe to physical newspapers.  Many homes on my street, including me, have more than one paper thrown and waiting for them each day.  I also take the print edition of the Wall Street Journal.   We are not starting from a base of zero. 

If enough people want to keep papers printed, we can do that.  It is just a decision that enough of us need to make and want to do.

How about you?  Let’s talk about it really soon!

 

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