Comment on Voice of the People Letter in the Newsleader

survival of the fittest points at who has the ability and will to adjust to the changing circumstances, not at who is the stronger one.

It is a rare occasion for me to comment on something I read in a newspaper, simply because I rarely read a newspaper. For news I consult the internet and with a few keystrokes I can get anywhere in the world, even in my beautiful backyard here in Fernandina Beach. Now, just to qualify why I decided to write a comment on a story in the January 30th edition of the NewsLeader posted under Voice of the People, the story writer is apparently sentimental about the future of newspapers as a result of the advance of the Internet. Actually, her story is less of a issue for me than is the accompanying cartoon portraying an older couple impersonating the “Newspapers” looking at 2 dancing kids depicting “the Internet”, while the old man’s text balloon says “Damn Kids”.The story essentially verbalizes the older generations’ negative sentiment about the Internet being the death of the old fashioned newspaper.

Well let me qualify myself first, before I go into addressing the misplaced sentiment. I am 58 years old- not a spring chicken, post graduate with a Ph.D in economics and a Masters in Marketing and Public Relations. I’ve traveled most of the world in my years and now call Amelia Island my home after “discovering” this great spot about 14 years ago. I am an Internet Specialist, having adopted the medium almost from day one in the early 1990’s. And let me tell you: Newspapers should be worried. Actually by now they should be completely in the process of adjusting themselves to the drastically changed circumstances of news distribution. When I compare newspapers with the changing landscape in advertising, I see several things the internet can do better than any newspaper. The flexibility of the internet allows both the news provider and the advertiser to be much more in tune with the reader’s needs and diversity. In addition a news event that happens at 9 am can be up on the internet with video in a couple of hours. Impossible for newspapers. The advertiser can daily change his promotions and make them known to his clientele by email.¬† And the cost to do so is a fraction of newspaper advertising.
With all the extras internet offers, the reader can be directed to exact news locations through the phenomenon of Google Map and Google Earth.

The reader can take a free subscription to the news website through an RSS feed. By simply filling in an email address and first name, the reader gets the news in their email inbox the moment it is published. A restaurant can show its ambiance with a video, email instant promotions to its customers and keep tables filled any night of the week. Imagine a restaurant wanting to advertise a onetime Seafood Special or a Valentine’s Day Super Special, it can do so at the turn of a moment’s notice. The internet allows grocery stores to advertise its weekly and daily specials through an email blast and make Black Friday a daily event if so required.

Unfortunately for Ms. Mavis Jump, the writer of the column we need Newspapers, the Internet can do everything and more that a newspaper can do, and it can do it quicker, more effectively and at a fraction of the cost. Websites like searchamelia.com offer its advertising customers ultimate flexibility for a monthly membership fee of less than $100, which gives them in addition to banner ads, a full portal page (website within a website) that can be used for pictures, history, special promotions, essentially anything they would like to communicate. And with a daily hit count of 4,000 and rapidly growing, of which some 400-500 are unique visitors every week, the logistics are hugely in favor of the internet. A simple calculation says 120,000 hits per month for a $100 membership fee is less than 0.1 cent per potential contact.

With its soon to be launched sister website ameliaislandclassifieds.com anyone can put up an ad with pictures at a cost anywhere between $1 and $5 per day. That’s why traditional media cannot compete anymore.

Even a daily crossword puzzle poses no problem for a website, Ms. Jump. It could even be done in such a way that you can fill it in on the computer with hints and suggestions and final word explanations, so it can become an educational tool as well. Of course if you like to do your crossword with a nice cup of coffee on the deck, you only need to print it out. And even there the Internet is way ahead of traditional newspapers as it only takes one sheet of paper, versus a tree per newspaper (I might be off a little here). Naturally, our island papermills would not like the idea either, but mark my words, the quicker newspapers accept that “the times they’re a changing”, the quicker they can adjust, embrace the new medium and save good quality people and their jobs. The needs have not changed, just the media are different now: like the change from vinyl records to CD’s, DVD and now MP3’s and iPhones.

And one more thing Ms. Jump, TV as we know it will soon be a thing of the past too, except maybe for certain sports and politics (news). Just watch today’s Prime Time programming as it turns to re-runs after airing merely a couple of original shows to support the diminishing advertising revenues…..and that has less to do with an economic recession than the fact that we can watch every show you see on TV within minutes after airing on the Internet. Sometimes even before it airs.¬† I’m not saying that it’s all good….what I’m saying is, newspapers and TV stations better get with the program and start adjusting to a new world.

There are ways for newspapers as well as TV stations to become part of the new distribution systems, but they will first have to depart from their negativity towards a medium that clearly has the advantage of technology in mass distribution while being able to almost individually address people private needs and desires….Even when it comes to news we have different desires and opinions.

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