As we kick off the new year, it’s a scary time for the newspaper industry. Maybe not quite as messed up as the auto or banking sectors, but still interesting times, to say the least.
Today’s my first day back from a week-long vacation (here’s why I always vainly remind readers that anything that was messed up in last week’s papers wasn’t my fault!), and since I try desperately to stay unplugged from mass media while I’m out of the office, suffice it to say I was genuinely surprised to see that Monday’s Binghamton Press is a mere two pages bigger than our own Evening Sun. It took me a while to get caught up on our southerly neighbor’s corporate rationale in downsizing, but given the current state of affairs in my chosen profession, it’s not much of a surprise.
A depressed economy isn’t good for anyone’s business, obviously. In our industry, it leads to decreased advertising from retailers and merchants – and that’s where we make the majority of our money. Combine that with an ever-increasing reliance on the Internet for its immediacy (if not accuracy), and you’ll see why many newspapers are in trouble. Binghamton’s not the only one to shrink – several large metro dailies are giving up print entirely a couple days a week and moving to web-only delivery. Others are lopping off staff, entering into cooperative news agreements and decreasing page counts. All are trying desperately to remain relevant – and survive.
How are things in Norwich, you ask? You know how we often complain that Chenango County is behind the curve on just about every trend imaginable? Well here’s an instance where that’s a good thing, for us at least. Print media is still viable in the land of the Bullthistle, if not as profitable as it once was. While larger newspapers strain their reporters to produce what they call “hyper-local” news … well, that’s what we’ve always done. Like my favorite tagline says, The Evening Sun has always been “the only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Chenango County.” But that’s not to say we’re immune to economic struggle. In December, we had our first-in-a-decade price increase; revenue from that will go a long way toward helping us keep our heads above water – and I’m pleased to report that while we’ve lost a few subscribers, we’ve managed to keep newsstand sales comparable with last year, even gain, depending on the headlines.
Of course the business picture isn’t all rosy here. We’ve made cutbacks where we could – tightening our corporate belts and taking a harder look at expenses – but our enduring goal is to ensure that you won’t see that reflected in the product. We’re not laying off reporters or reducing the size of the paper, and you’ll still get it five days a week, like always. And while we’re always looking at ways to innovate and stay competitive in the marketplace, we’re mindful of the fact that our bread and butter is, was, and always shall be local news, sports, opinion and entertainment. Do that well, and the rest will follow.
And if it doesn’t, I will take the corporate jet down to D.C. and ask for a bailout.