Next to the health care industry, I sometimes think the next most heavily dissected sector of business relates to media in general and newspapers specifically.
So far this year, newspapers in Texas have witnessed initiatives in the legislature to sharply reduce or eliminate paid public notices by local government and schools, seen the U.S. Postal Service cut a discounted rate deal with one of the nation's largest direct mail advertising companies, survived another postal service recommendation to eliminate Saturday delivery of mail and newspapers, and read a thousand different accounts by columnists, consultants and bloggers about the imminent death of print media.
The prediction that newspapers are all but buried in history is most prevalent in the Internet industry, the latest communications enterprise to claim it will kill newspapers. The Internet follows telegraph, radio, telephone, commercial television and cable television in laying claim to the information throne.
The truth is, none of us will determine our respective fates. Consumers will; you will.
I said before, and I write again, readers and viewers will determine how long (or short) will be the future of newspapers.
For many of us in the industry, the argument is moot. We're not interested in shoving newspapers down the throats of more digitally-minded consumers or abandoning newspapers when millions of readers still buy them.
We're interested in two things: information and audience.
That's why many newspaper professionals, including those of us at The Graham Leader, are not fighting the Internet in some kind of media duel. Rather, we're embracing the new technology as an additional way of sharing news, information and advertising with residents of Graham and Young County.
To that end, The Graham Leader launched softly its new website this week.
With the help of our corporate parent, we are bringing to Graham and Young County a more modern Internet site with many new features.
These features include more local news categories, larger and more effective ads, the ability to share more photographs of local events, and, importantly, the ability to share video reporting with web viewers.
Internet users also will find a smart-looking PDF version of the traditional printed newspapers online. This replica version of the newspaper graphically “turns” pages, zooms in and out, and provides subscribers with a permanent archive.
To introduce these changes, The Graham Leader is offering the whole package for free for the next couple weeks. Just point your Internet browser to www.GrahamLeader.com.
It's all part of our soft launch, as I wrote earlier. Readers may see a few of those pesky electronic “bugs” that the staff intends to exterminate in the next couple weeks.
When we're finished, we'll continue to offer a considerable amount of information for free, but the traditional newspaper and its digital, replica version will be offered only by subscription. Our print subscribers automatically will receive access to the digital version; others may choose to subscribe only to the digital version.
The point of sharing all of this with you now is to say simply, your Graham Leader is not at war with the Internet but rather views the web as another way to tell area residents about what's happening.
A major national journalism survey recently found that 47 percent of online readers said they prefer newspaper websites as their favorite source of news and information on the web.
That makes the combination of the traditional newspaper and the Internet a very powerful combination right now.
And that's why we provide it to our customers in more than one way. There is no contest. Just local news, information and advertising tendered in such a manner as to serve more, rather than fewer residents.