Even as publications, GLBT and mainstream, continue to close their doors, there are a few of us in the newspaper business that think print media is going to hang on.
Barely, mind you, but hang on nonetheless.
Much of my tepid optimism comes from the fact that many of print’s online competitors, everything from blogs of all sort and type to such push-delivery services as Twitter, are already beginning to surpass the overkill stage. There is such a thing as saturation, and there’s only so much ad revenue to go around.
And it’s less about the delivery and all about the ads. Media outlets are businesses, something people often tend to forget. At a recent community forum at OutCentral, a few present vocalized their disappointment that Out & About only came out monthly. Others said they got all their news online, so they never picked the print version up. Another faction weighed in with the common-sense notion that a paper can only publish if it has healthy ad revenue, so if they want to see more frequent editions, support the advertising side of things.
For me, it’s all about content. A web component is great for putting out immediate news, which can then be followed up either online or in print in a much more in-depth fashion. Utilizing every available method to get the word out is good journalism. Now compare that to the vaunted blogosphere, much of which reads like this:
Blogger: I think the Tennessee Legislature is a pack of buffoons. ItchyGirl agrees with me (insert link to blog here), and so does RowdyBoy (insert link to blog here). Not surprisingly, GOPDude doesn’t (insert link to blog here). On balance, then, I’m right in saying that they’re a pack of fools. Please leave a comment, and be sure to click on the donations link so that independent blogging can continue!
That’s not journalism, and it’s a stretch to even call it op-ed material. But that’s what has been replacing the outlets that cover the county-commission meetings, which have the tedious stories about tax rates, which sit in on the legislature’s subcommittees. And when all of that mundane, boring, comprehensive and necessary coverage is gone, people will miss it. And they’ll want it back, whether in print, online or both.
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s managing director, Michael Tune puts it this way:
“It’s awful about what’s happening to traditional media at the moment, but it’s incredibly interesting to see how those same people are coming up with new models to keep going forward. There’s a lot of negative press about journalism right now in terms of the closings, but there’s some optimism as well about what to expect.”
Tune compares print media to where movies found themselves as television was introduced. I think that’s whistling past the graveyard to a certain degree, in that the movie industry has always been able to differentiate itself pretty effectively from the Boob Tube. Some of its more awful efforts (Cinemascope, anyone?) to do so, however, do put me in mind of the horrid online experiments that print media continues to indulge in. (Yes, there’s at least one in town, but I won’t be catty.)
Tune was kind enough to send over a couple of editorial pieces that discuss all this in much finer detail, so here they are if you’re interested:
On the death of the Southern Voice:
On the Miami Herald’s efforts to raise money online for its survival:
On balance, I continue to think that there’s going to be a market out there for traditional (please don’t call it legacy) media, but it’s going to be a fight. The only plus of a down economy is that it’s taking out some of the lesser lights online as well, so that going forward readers and advertisers can expect a much better corps of providers delivering news and information. Online will always be able to be first, but being first at the expense of being the best, or even being accurate, is taking its toll. Once you lose the reader’s trust, you’re in a perilous place. There’s a lot to choose from out there these days, and the savvy readers are picking and choosing from multiple sources. For that reason, print shouldn’t settle for just staying in the pack. Print’s goal should be not just to be a source, but also to be a preferred one.