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Neely Young: Alive And Well

 

“Extra! Extra! Newspapers aren’t dead yet!” This was a recent headline in USA Today. The article, by Rem Rieder, reports a new business model has taken shape that makes newspapers a mature industry and, at the same time, an emerging industry.

And who doesn’t love the local newspaper? Where else will we find a picture of our grandchild hitting a baseball over the fence or our daughter receiving an award for winning the spelling bee? Who doesn’t love the special features only newspapers offer, like a Church News Bloopers column with items like: “The evening service sermon tonight will be ‘What is Hell?’ Come early and listen to the choir practice.”

The good news is that newspaper revenues are increasing because newspapers are now charging for content searched on the web, and they are increasing revenues through e-commerce and hosting special events that recognize charities and community leadership.

Magazines have avoided much of the negative impact of the Internet because they are more designed for institutional advertising, while the main business model for newspapers is item and price advertising. So now newspapers are producing their own magazines and reaping new profits from their efforts.

There are indications that many of the websites that challenged newspapers are slipping, with no long-term prospects. Monster World-wide and its Monster.com help wanted site are for sale with no takers. Stock-wise, Groupon is now a bust. A recent article documented how Facebook “can’t sell soap,” saying people do not click on ads as they are visiting with friends.

Digital advertising, once promising the Holy Grail, has been a huge disappointment in the advertising world. If people don’t look at ads on their computers, why would they look at them on mobile phones?

There is an elephant in the room for Internet hopefuls, those young startups that hold such promise for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Their ideas will depend on super high-speed wireless Internet. The pipeline they will need to deliver their ideas is not generally available, because only 48 percent of the country has high-speed Internet at home. It’s only available in the metro areas of the U.S.

Because of the expense, this Internet pipe-line is not being built out in the state or in the rest of the U.S. For instance, it’s long been a dream idea that a physician specialist could beam on the Internet in real time from Emory Hospital to talk with doctors in rural areas and solve a specific medical issue. There are software applications like Skype to do this, but for now it requires a large bandwidth, and high-speed Internet is not available to almost 50 percent of Georgia communities.

What about the popular Apple iPad? Only 31 percent in the U.S. own the device. Its popularity is waning for many because reading books, magazines and newspapers on iPads and Kindles is proving to be boring. Apple’s stock is down 25 percent at the time of this writing.

All of this has given print publications new life as an “emerging” industry.

In St. Simons, Ga., population 12,700, there are nine print publications. Among them are two big magazines in addition to Coastal Illustrated, Bulldawg Illustrated, two real estate magazines, The Brunswick News, The Georgia Times-Union and the local St. Simons newspaper. All of these are being published during the biggest recession since the 1930s, and several are owned by The Brunswick News.

If you go into your favorite grocery store anywhere in the state, you will see the same sorts of publications. Niche publications are all over the place. Small local newspapers have cropped up in communities all over Georgia and throughout the U.S.

We all love our newspapers. How can we do without headlines like: “Rally against apathy draws small crowd”?

But beyond entertainment, newspapers and magazines have a serious and important responsibility – and unlike many Internet sites, they are accountable to their readers.

Without good, strong newspapers, who is go-ing to look after the interests of everyday citizens when it comes to political events? Who will report on the bad guys and celebrate the good guys? Who will give power to people who have no power?

Only newspapers and other print media can do that in the accurate, fair and true way that has worked for hundreds of years. The Internet has not killed newspapers or print media, but it certainly changed it, and maybe saved it for all of us, forever.

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