Monday, September 19, 2011

Some ideas for old fashioned newspapers..

My first job was working for a newspaper.  I had a Detroit Free Press route in Lincoln Park back in the late 1970's in 8th and 9th grade.  I had around 100 daily and 125 Sunday papers to deliver. I got up at 6AM, picked up the papers at the Lawson's, walked or rode the route for an hour or so and went back home to start the day.  Every day, rain or shine, even on Christmas.  I had to go door to door in the afternoon every Friday to collect the $2 from everyone.  I never once needed the book to know how much every customer owed.  Paperboy's got a lot of time to think about who didn't pay last week.  

Anyway, I grew up with newspapers and I want to see them survive in the digital age. The internet can't totally eliminate the need for print news, but it certainly has screwed up the traditional business model.  But I can already see the signs of strain on the internet news media as well.  Heck when you call up most online newspapers now, your PC gets jammed with bandwidth sucking banner ads, pop-up ads, commercials, etc.  At least in the old fashioned newspaper you could skip past all the ads and go right to the story.  I'm not sure this medium has a long term business model any better than the print media.   How much bombardment with internet advertisements will web surfers tolerate?  Not much.

So I have a few ideas for the newspapers to maybe help drum up some interest and maybe new fans.  In no particular order. 

First, make sure the layout for printing is done carefully so that the color pictures are sharp and defined.  Blurry photos are a sign of sloppy work in the printing process.  Customers expect quality.  In my mind this is the number one perceived quality issue with newspapers I see for sale, with one exception, the Toledo Blade which I must say, always has clean and sharp color pictures.      

Provide some blank space somewhere in the newspaper. Not much, maybe just an 1/8 of a page.  There is nowhere in the entire newspaper on which to jot down a note or just doodle if you're bored at the airport.  Apparently the object of newspaper layout is to fill every square centimeter with either an ad, a graphic, a wire story, a picture, anything at all except for blank space.  I think people would like some doodle space in the paper.    

As a daily feature present a timely news story in English and then along side that in Spanish, French, or other language.  Over time it will be a convenient way for some interested people to learn a basic knowledge of another language.  Might even get some school language departments to buy the paper once a week.

Have something like a Quack's Corner to expose the nut case radicals on the internet, debunk the common internet based conspiracies and Snopes the current chain e-mail string nonsense.  Print media should get a dig in at the net where it is due.  The Internet is full of quacks.  Have some fun ridiculing them. 

Car Pool page.  The paper could do a community service and help build sales by organizing and sponsoring car pool efforts in the reader community.  A place where people who want to share a ride can find others nearby.  This can also be the place where road construction projects that will cause delays can be listed.

Just a few thoughts.  One thing is sure, the newspapers have to do something to retrieve customers.  Otherwise it will be a slow long march to complete oblivion and no one wants that.

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