These days, rarely a week goes by without someone — a co-worker, a friend, a professional associate, an acquaintance, etc. — asking for my thoughts about the future of the newspaper industry.
Their fundamental question often comes out like this: “How much longer will newspapers last, especially in their printed form?”
The only honest answer to that, of course, is “I don’t know.” But having already witnessed firsthand dramatic technological changes in newspapers during my 36-year career, I’ve developed some instincts that tell me the printed newspaper, while it won’t last forever, will be around for quite a while.
I don’t think I’m being naive. I understand the march of technology and embrace it. While the demand for relevant, credible news on the printed page may slowly decrease, the demand for news itself will not. And it’s important to note that the demand for the printed newspaper remains strong. The Tribune-Star has more than 21,000 paying subscribers each day, a couple thousand more than that on Sundays. Add to that the extraordinarily high readership of our online edition, Tribstar.com, and it’s clear this newspaper is alive and well.
Our readers, our customers, tell us constantly that they value the print edition highly. They can’t imagine their lives without the daily newspaper and dread the day when it may no longer exist, a victim of the digital information age.
Their passion for the newspaper, and their continued willingness to pay for the printed product and have it delivered to their homes or businesses every day, is what keeps my morale high in these tough times. I know, and they know, that their newspaper is providing them a valuable service they cannot get elsewhere, and that reading their newspaper is a crucial part of community life, of being an engaged citizen.
Yes, we know broadcast media have cornered the market on a few types of news — mainly weather, some breaking news and, in larger markets, traffic information. But for the wider, deeper vein of information, newspapers have the market cornered.
Don’t just take my word for it. Good research backs me up.
A new study released recently supports the assertion that more people use newspapers, in print and online, to learn about their community than any other media source. The study was sponsored by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Internet & American Life Project in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
For all their challenges, newspapers are still the source most people choose for reliable local news about government, taxation, politics, crime, business, sports, education, etc. In other words, the things that really matter to them in their daily lives.
A good example of how your Tribune-Star provides readers with in-depth, credible information they can’t get anywhere else is our upcoming special section on the 2011 municipal election. Our staff has been busy interviewing candidates and gathering information about the various races in Terre Haute and surrounding communities. Their work will be featured in the special section to be published as an insert to the newspaper on Saturday, Oct. 22. That’s a little more than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election. This content will also be published to our online edition.
Reader feedback is important to us, so please let us know how we’re doing and what we can do to make the Tribune-Star even more valuable to you.
And don’t forget, we plan to be here for a long, long time.
Max Jones can be reached at (812) 231-4336, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TribStarMax.