Quite often I am asked about the newspaper business. There are a lot of clickbait stories discussing the demise of the American newspaper. Those stories make our readers and advertisers wonder if we will be around in 30 years.
The answer is yes, we will still be here.
The newspaper business has been on a bumpy road for the past 30 years — with a large part of the damage done to the industry created by government rules and regulations most of our readers and advertisers are unaware of.
For decades, newspapers had youth carriers who delivered papers, collected money and sold papers on their route. It was the first taste of business for many millions of young people. Then our government decided that it wasn’t safe for young people to deliver papers anymore even though there had been almost zero incidents with youth carriers.
The youth carrier part of the newspaper business created the vast majority of all new subscribers. The youth carrier program created higher newspaper penetration because, just like Girl Scout cookies, it’s hard to turn down a neighborhood kid.
The newspaper industry then switched to telemarking for 70 percent of its new subscribers. Then the government outlawed telemarketing, except for politicians. Newspaper penetration began to slide as the two best forms of marketing, youth carriers and telemarketing, were outlawed by the government.
The government made it illegal for a newspaper in a town like Clermont to also own the local radio station. They said it created too much monopoly power and was not good for democracy. Our government did allow Google, Facebook, and Twitter to buy whatever businesses they wanted to consolidate their digital monopolies because somehow, massive monopoly digital enterprises were not a threat to democracy.
Our government has very strict libel rules for newspapers. This means we have to pay people to do professional work and have editors who check their work. Our government wrote laws so the libel rules do not apply to Google, Twitter or Facebook. This means the digital clickbait monopolies can get free content, no matter how libelous, and not have the requirement of editors.
Our government also has laws which permit Google, Facebook and Twitter to steal newspaper content and profit from it. It is called “Fair Use.”
Imagine if you owned a restaurant, and your competitor down the street was coming into your restaurant all-day long and just taking hundreds of small spoonfuls of your world-famous chicken salad and giving those away to their customers for free as an incentive to come to the competing restaurant.
Could you stay in business? Our government somehow thinks it is fair if Google and Facebook and Twitter steal product from newspapers and give it away for free to enhance the digital companies’ core product. Our government made it illegal for the newspapers to collectively bargain with the tech titans to get paid for this unfair theft of product.
Candidly, I sometimes feel like my government has locked my ankles with a ball and chain, zip-tied my hands together and thrown me over the side of the boat.
Surprisingly, thousands of newspapers, like us, are keeping their head above water.
We think there are two main reasons why we will still be successfully swimming in these waters 30 years from now. The first is readers.
Readers regularly tell us how exhausting it is to read the click bait media of Twitter, Facebook, and Google. They like our good, reliable news and the sense of community we are trying to help build in each community. Supporting our small towns is part of this newspaper’s mission. Facebook couldn’t care less if Mount Dora existed or died.
Secondly, our local advertisers have also told us what a pleasure it is to do business with us. They know that we think locally owned businesses are the key to creating cool communities people want to live in. Our advertisers support this family-owned business back in return.
Plus, local businesses have figured out “good luck getting found on Google if you are the local barber.” Good luck figuring out how to cost-effectively navigate Facebook if you are a small business. Small business has discovered when their labor is counted, digital is actually quite expensive. To successfully market via digital, you not only have to pay the Facebook fee, but you invest on average, another three times the cost of the Facebook fee by paying someone on your staff to be your in-house marketing department.
Because of our partnerships with our readers and advertisers, this newspaper is going to have more revenue in 2022 than we did in 2021. We are looking forward to another 30 years bringing you the local news and advertiser specials — assuming our government doesn’t add a new ball and chain on local newspapers.
Share your thoughts. David@d-r.media.