What Has Happened to Our Newspapers? – 6630

(Blog posts with a four number identifier after the title reflect the course number that this blog was written for. Over the next 10 weeks an increasing number of posts will have a number at the end as both courses I am currently engaged in require weekly blog posts. All visitors are welcome to comment and re-blog as you wish. My blog, regardless of content, is principally used to generate an open discussion about the contents. I welcome your feedback.)

Imagine if you will a gentlemen walking in a delightful main street area. The county courthouse rests a block away with its copper dome shining as the eastern morning sun rises above the horizon. This gentlemen, on his way to his shop located downtown, stops at the local coffee shop for his morning cup of Joe. On his way out of the coffee shop, he drops two quarters into a pull-handle machine housing neatly folded bundles of pages.  Each bundle represents one combination of various sections of pages with each section receiving its own title – perhaps Local News, Local Sports, Classifieds, and State/National news. The gentleman snags his bundle for which he paid, and he continues his stroll to his office. This bundle, affectionately termed a “newspaper,” provides the gentlemen an opportunity to increase his overall knowledge of local, state, and national current events. Additionally, this newspaper provides a level of entertainment that he may not otherwise receive during his regular hours of business. The shear act of reading not only improves the mind and intellect, but it also serves a recreational purpose that can help aid in passing time during a slow period. And, perhaps, he is able to share information learned from the newspaper’s sections with guests of his business, allowing for a conversation to be had between shop-owner and patron that builds positive relationships between business and customer.

Now, imagine if you will, a gentleman waking up in the morning after a delightful evening of sleep. This gentleman, likely woken up by his alarm clock from his Smartphone, immediately becomes attached to the outside world by the most basic task of picking up his phone to turn off its alarm. In the process of turning off the phone’s alarm, the gentleman recognizes the onslaught of overnight notifications from various news organizations, social media websites of which he is a member, text messages from friends or family sharing developments with him while he was asleep. All of this starkly contrasts with the gentlemen grabbing the newspaper and has occurred in a matter of a few minutes – if not even simply seconds.

Do you recognize the difference between the two above scenarios? In one, information is disseminated through an extremely fast medium (the internet, through a connection to an individual’s Smartphone), and the other is disseminated through a traditional print medium that requires an individual to make a financial investment to acquire the limited information available within the bundle of paper.

There was a time when newspapers saw immense value, and readership was very high. However, the past decade and a half has seen a significant decrease in subscribers and thus the size of newsrooms across the country. Consolidation has hit the newspaper industry just as it has any other industry over the past decade. Newsrooms are smaller with fewer resources and less journalists, content designers, and editors than the same businesses were a decade and a half ago. For those of us involved in strategic communications, this reality cannot be ignored and is one that must constantly be evaluated as messages are developed and mediums are selected for dissemination. Traditional media still demands the attention of communication professionals, but more importantly the utilization of the medium requires evaluating and refocusing of the end desired goal of the message campaign.

Emerging media, and the speed at which content can be spread throughout a community without borders, has drastically changed the way communication professionals react to crises, campaigns, marketing, branding, issues management, corporate governance, public policy, client reputation, and credibility protections. Communications professionals now must be connected through various social media avenues in addition to maintaining position relationships with traditional media resources so that they can quickly react to news that affects their clients. Additionally, these communication professionals must be familiar with the tools at their disposal so that they can be integrated into an evolving communication plan and strategy that is proactive rather than reactive.

The first week’s readings for COM6630 have already highlighted the paradigm shift that has occurred, and is continuing to occur, as traditional media (principally newspapers) attempt to realign their strategic focus and attempt to minimize losses.

In August 2013, Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post. The move, widely hailed by media industry types as a breath of fresh air that could bring new life to The Washington Post and would serve as an example for other large newspaper organizations on how to succeed in the digital age, is one additional example of the changes that are occurring – today, right now – in the traditional media arena. Without successfully pivoting traditional media’s resources and attention to tailored content for readers, readership will continue to decline – as will subscribers and thus sales revenue and advertising revenue.

This is an interesting time to be studying communications, more especially the news media apparatus, as technology aids in the free-flow of content and information with limited restrictions. The news-related scenarios laid out in this blog’s first two paragraphs should serve as a simple reflection on what once was and now is the information landscape of the twenty-first century.

How do you receive your “news?” Do you subscribe to a local newspaper? How often do you drop coins into a newspaper dispensary and snag a paper? Or, do you simply “Like” or “Follow” your favorite sources of “information” through the various social media tools? Additionally, do you subscribe to daily e-mails from news organizations, special interest groups, or even daily academic sources? These are the questions news organization leadership are asking themselves about their readers/viewers. Trust that they have the data to evaluate as well.

Personally speaking, I cannot remember the last time I put change into a box to get a newspaper, but I will admit to snagging copies available to me for free at various hotels around the country when I am traveling. Additionally, I will admit to following a number of news organizations via social media and to subscribing to a number of daily e-mail subscriptions from a handful of organizations that deliver current event analysis or industry specific content every morning.

I am excited to see what the next few weeks have in store. My journey with Troy University is nearly complete, and I am eager to embrace new ideas and theories on how to become a successful communication professional.

For my COM6630 colleagues, until next week! For everyone else, there will be an additional blog post for my second class within the next few days. Stay tuned!

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