Friday, March 22, 2013

Circling the Drain

Newspapers, specifically printed weekly newspapers, are living on borrowed time, like death row convicts waiting for their last meals before one final sizzling tango in the electric chair.

Print weeklies cannot keep up with the lightning-fast information glut of the Internet, of 24/7 news sites, of the public’s appetite for instantaneous information. It’s a constant need to put stories out as they happen, when they happen, the frenetic information overload, the rapid delivery times and manifold competition that’s choking weeklies out of existence.

Weeklies failed to be relevant in the 21st Century because the times demand more of reporters and editors. The public, weened on a 24-hour, constant news cycle, must have their up-to-the-nanosecond news with immediate delivery. Weekly reporting used to be a quaint, dilettante profession where scribblers with lackadaisical work ethics file stories at a snail’s pace because the paper only published one day a week.

With the public craving Internet news sites, social media and newsfeeds, weekly reporters have become daily reporters, cranking out stories faster than they’ve done to meet the demands. Despite their added responsibilities and workloads, their pay hasn’t kept up. They’re still underpaid minions of a bloated goblin king, now with double their usual output.

As recently as a decade ago, weeklies were how small communities received their news.  Local papers were either “rags” or sacrosanct watchdogs, depending on who you talk to. Reporters for these publications were fixtures of town meetings and events and held considerable sway. When the Internet added a new dimension to publishing, some smaller newspapers were reticent to climb onboard, and they’re the ones who’ve paid the price of their failure.

Internet news sites like Patch are popular with readers, but haven’t scored well with netting advertising dollars, which steadfastly remain grounded to local print publications (if the businesses can afford to advertise, that is). Meanwhile, print weeklies are circling the drain, losing subscribers and readership to the free Internet sites.

Newspapers who don’t embrace the online models usually end up the redundant dinosaurs they deserve to be. If newspapers are going to survive, they need to get into reader’s hands, whether on a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Migrating their news content to the Internet not only broadens readership, but ensures the publication’s survival.

The times are a-changing, fellow news-slaves. You’re either on the Information Superhighway driving 100 mph in a red Maserati blasting Rammstein, or you’re walking by the side of the road, whistling The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Your fate is your choice.

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