That’s the kind of products the newspaper industry – every industry – needs.
When newspapers converted from hot type to cold type, our product became better, faster and less expensive to produce. Same thing happened when we moved into computerized (or desktop) publishing.
Our products became faster, better and less expensive when we got rid of our chemical-filled wet darkrooms and converted to digital darkrooms.
So what can we do next that creates that triple-threat improvement – better, faster and cheaper?
Perhaps it is moving more quickly into the production of electronic newspapers.
Most newspapers have gone to full pagination. So they have all the ingredients in place for commercial-grade electronic delivery of their newspaper.
How is this better? An electronic edition is clearly more environmentally friendly. Fewer trees are killed. There is obviously less waste to ship to landfills. Ink doesn’t rub off on customers’ hands or tablecloths. An electronic edition is also better because it creates an excellent fully-searchable archive of the newspaper.
How is it faster? The current delivery methods for printed products take many steps. Once the newspaper is in final form, the pages go to the pressroom, then sorted for bundling, then delivered to carriers, then delivered to customers. That requires six to eight hours. Weekly newspapers that are reliant on the U.S. Postal Service have even a longer lag time between being “camera ready” and being in the hands of the reader.
How is it cheaper (less expensive)? Obviously, less newsprint is needed – and that’s a major issue as newsprint skyrockets by 20 to 25 percent this year. Ink and other related costs also are reduced or eliminated. Delivery costs are all but eliminated.
So what’s stopping the industry from selling its presses?
It’s obviously not that easy.
Customers – readers and advertisers – still want print products, and likely will for many years to come. Pre-printed inserts are still best delivered within a printed newspaper.
Nevertheless, the time has come to look more closely at electronic delivery. Technology is improving. More readers have high-speed Internet access, and better computers and monitors. Inserts will soon become available for electronic delivery.
But for now, the starting point could be your out-of-trade-area readers.
The Postal Service is slow and costly when it comes to delivering newspapers to out-of-state readers. Advertisers generally don’t care – and don’t want to pay – for out of state (or even out-of-county) readers.
I know that when I was a publisher, I was reluctant to raise my out-of-state rate high enough to fully cover the costs of postage and production of the newspaper. Out-of-state readers already were complaining about getting their papers 10-to-14 days after it was printed. Electronic newspaper subscribers (wherever they lived) could get the paper before the first print copies were home-delivered.
Almost every newspaper executive I know is looking to economize. Many cuts can harm the product, but electronic delivery really is faster, better and cheaper! Only the newsprint suppliers and the Postal Service will object.
(Marc Wilson is CEO of TownNews.com and president of The Job Network. He was a reporter at three daily newspapers, five AP bureaus, and he was editor and publisher of a Montana weekly newspaper. He may be reached at email@example.com)