By Heino Molls
A lot of newspapers are scrambling to be online because they fear that if they don’t do it, somebody else will take their news, put it on the Internet and become a more favoured place to go for updated information.
It’s true that general newspaper readership is down but so is general television viewership. It is not because there are less people watching TV or reading newspapers – there are more people watching and reading than ever before. The challenge for mainstream media is that general viewership is down. People have a choice of hundreds of specialty programs on hundreds of TV channels.
It’s the same for the newspaper business; people have the choice of literally hundreds of newspapers across the country. REM is one of those specialty newspapers out of the mainstream. We focus on a specific industry, real estate.
What the Internet has taken away are the people who wouldn’t be reading in the first place. They are a different problem. A problem I don’t have room to address here.
There are also a lot of folks who just check the sports scores and the lottery results and look at what the critics are saying. They get all that on the Internet quickly.
Some newspapers are looking desperately for new ways to generate revenue that they have lost mostly from classifieds ads, but they don’t know how. Papers that used to be the “main news provider” in town now don’t know what to do. On the other hand, there are many newspapers that understand what needs to be done. It is simple.
Be a good read. Have good information. Have correct information and deliver the news.
That’s it. Produce good stories that are credible, informative, educational, important and above all fact checked. If you can do that, you will win. You will get readers and if you have readers you can sell advertising because you have something of value.
It is simple but it is not easy. Take it from an old warhorse in the business. I am not a reporter or an editor but even I can tell you there are a lot of newspapers in our towns that have lost the concept of good stories. They are just not that good anymore.
If you live in a smaller city than Montreal or Vancouver, for example, take a good look at your local paper. There was a time that they had stories about regional, provincial and even national events as they affected you and your town in addition to the local stuff. I remember a little paper out west called The Albertan that was one of the best reads in the country. Now it is gone.
Small papers today write about the local news but the big stories all come from the head office in the big city. If a notorious incident should occur in their neck of the woods, local reporters will be handy to provide background information but the main story will still be handled by the head office. It’s just so cookie cutter now that the grasp, the understanding and the passion are missing in so many papers. For me that is the greatest challenge this business has, to write with real understanding and credible facts.
You want readers? Get good stories. To get good stories you need good editorial. To get good writers you have to pay good money. That’s the hard part. Some newspapers have good writers and huge comprehensive editorial departments and lose a lot of money, like the National Post. Some newspapers don’t have good writers and instead run opinion, criticism and columns by bad writers and claim they make money.
The bottom line is that producing a good newspaper is simple. Making money on it is hard.
At REM, we will keep trying. Here is what I wanted to let everyone know this month. One of the elements of being a good newspaper is being a good steward to the community. With this in mind, REM is, as of this month, printing on 100 per cent recycled paper – not some, not half but truly 100 per cent recycled paper. We get to put a special logo on our masthead that says we are certified. This is all due to the efforts of our printer, Metroland Printing and Publishing, who managed to get this paper for us. Thank you Peter Marsh, Steve Renaud and Ed Woodley at Metroland for helping us be good stewards.
Now if only you could help me make money.
Posted: 2010-03-24 07:52:13
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