Monday, March 23, 2009

Beware of your local newspaper

I have been a subscriber to the Washington Post since before they began covering Watergate. So, I opened up today's paper to read that the Post will be giving up one of its daily crossword puzzles, it's Saturday Quote-Acrostic puzzle and several other features including a reduction in its television programming listings. This comes on the heels of their announcement last week that they were "merging" their business section into the A section of the paper.

I no longer need a newspaper to tell me yesterday's sports scores or to tell me tomorrow how the stock market performed today. I have always enjoyed the newspaper for its news coverage, analysis, commentary and its features. But, as they take away these things in order to reduce their operating costs, they are hurting themselves by alienating loyal subscribers such as me. It seems that as they raise their subscription rates they reduce the amount of content they provide. For the first time since before Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, I am giving serious consideration to resigning my subscription. And when enough readers also decide they no longer need their daily printed newspaper, the company will see a decline in their advertising revenues because of the smaller circulation. I don't subscribe to the Washington Post so I can get two daily crossword puzzles or the TV listings, but without these, it is more difficult to differentiate the value the print version delivers to me from what I can get elsewhere.

The point of this is that all publishers--commercial and association--must retain a proper mix of content that is uniquely available in each of the types of media they produce. Where newspapers are failing is that they have used their websites to reproduce much of the content that they deliver in their printed versions. And when they do as the Post is doing by taking away features that are well suited for print publication, they further obscure the line between print and online content.

Association publishers must remember the needs of their members/audience/constituencies and add value by delivering an appropriate and timely content mix utilizing all of their media. In these difficult times, it is easy to take the short term view of reducing content in order to lower costs. But, this economic downturn will end and when the money is spent again, you want it spent with you. Make sure the value is there to assure that you are the first place your audience comes when they are ready to return and begin spending money on dues, publications, conferences, and all of the other products you want them to rely on.

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