By Mike Graves
There’s an article this week in The New York Times called ‘The Curious (and Vital) Power of Print’ that put some thoughts in perspective for me.
The article begins with a joke: who reads newspapers anymore? The answer? Journalists, and their parents.
The joke, of course, was not funny to me, but it was thought provoking. The author gave plenty of credit to online and digital publications, but states that the readers of print tend to be “more engaged” than their digital counterparts. “More engaged,” meaning readers of legal ads and actions regarding our local, state and federal government.
Data quoted in the article confirms some trends we’ve seen here in southwest Arkansas, where the cows outnumber the people.
Single copy rack sales of newspapers have been devastated by Facebook and the web in general. Car wrecks, murders and robberies can not drive rack sales when they’ve already been posted on someone’s Facebook and shared with hundreds of curious onlookers.
This means that newspaper readers left are those who insist on the print version of news delivered to their doors or via mail, which may be the reason the big papers like the Arkansas and Texarkana Gazettes charge so much for their subscriptions – to make up for lost revenue from rack sales.
Back to the debated question: will newspapers survive? My opinion as a home made publisher from southwest Arkansas is, “Yes, but not as we’ve known it.”
I believe weekly papers concerned with small town Americana will survive in limited numbers. We will survive until the last Clyde Bell, scouring the city budget legal ad, is gone, when the Vivian Popes no longer have scrap books concerning their family’s doings, and when the public can trust the government with the dissemination of their information.
Until then, the electoral process and mankind as a whole will demand accountable media. How long the printed product on paper survives is anybody’s guess. Hopefully the Good Lord, in all His mercy, will keep newspapers around so I wont have to go to work for Roy Conrad.