So we’re in our weekly staff meeting Wednesday, talking about the ways in which we’re going to start prioritizing our digital product. At one point in our discussions, one newsroom person loses it and begins to rant about how we can’t neglect our older readers, many of who don’t use computers and are nowhere near digital-first news consumers.
Another person responded that print will always be our anchor, but there’s a larger point that should’ve been made: if we don’t start prioritizing digital now, the newspaper could close in the next decade.
Yes, we have a portion of our audience that only reads the print edition. But our newspaper has followed a print-first approach up until now, and in the last 10 years that’s resulted in a shrinkage in our overall circulation, not growth.
To make money, we need digital readers. No matter how great our print product is — and it is pretty great considering how few reporters we have — quality doesn’t seem to raise print subscriptions.
McAlester isn’t so different from the rest of the country. The largest demographic here is people my age (or even slightly younger), and it’s no secret that my generation just doesn’t buy newspapers.
Many of my generation also seem to think that because information should be free, the news should be as well. To survive in this world that grows more digitized with each passing day, newspapers have to convince younger readers to pay for the news. And the first way to do that is to present the news in their preferred format.
Maybe some old people will suffer slightly, though the majority of our content does print eventually, and that’s unlikely to change soon. But if our readers are that heavily skewed towards the elderly, then at some point soon we’re looking at a massive dropoff in subscribers.
The only way to replace that loss is to already have in place a strong base of paying digital readers.
I’ve been a full-time professional journalist for just over two years. I don’t think the News-Capital will be the only stop in my career, and I know whatever job I get next will either require me to have these digital-first skills or at least look more favorably upon me for having them.
I get that people who’ve been working here a lot longer are more deeply set in their ways. I’d hope a desire to best serve our readers would trump that inertia and inspire people to put in the extra work, but unfortunately I don’t think that happens in real life in any industry anywhere.
Like it or not, print is quickly becoming (or has already become) the least popular form of communication. If newspapers had been a little bit smarter 15 years ago, they might’ve realized that and jumped into the digital age before it crippled the industry.
Instead, both our industry and my paper is very close to a cliff. And if some of us have to learn a few new skills to keep our jobs, then frankly we ought to do it.
Here’s everything I wrote this past month.
Midweek Update: New school year kicks off Thursday
The Firm scoring relentless against Downtown Detail
Say I Won’t overcomes Late Comers
Local CrossFit trio returns from competition
Hartshorne wraps record travel baseball season
Lady Hornets edge Warriorettes
Tubbs repeats as Hartshorne 5K champ
Friday Night Lights 5K medalists
Lady Buffs softball starts today
Midweek Update: All schools start fall seasons
Lady Savages beat Lady Miners
Lady Buffs volleyball ready for new season
Savanna Alumni to host softball game Saturday
Lady Hornets sting Lady Cougars
McAlester alum named OKC Thunder Girl
Midweek Update: Latimer Co. teams off to hot start
Lady Buffs crush Lady Eagles for first win
Senior Spotlight: Vhitney Garner keeps eyes open
Senior Spotlight: Clarissa Salinas prowls the back row
Lady Panthers topple Cowgirls
Know Your Foe: Buffs head to Wagoner for scrimmage
Buffs fast and physical in Wagoner
Porum wins Robbers Cave Shootout
Coffeyville wins Eastern soccer debut
Midweek Update: Lady Hornets, Lady Bulldogs and Lady Eagles ranked
Demons come back, beat Hornets
Buffs cross country season starts Thursday
Senior Spotlight: Breeze McLaughlin feels right at home on court
Savanna wins Pitt 8 fastpitch tournament
Know Your Foe: Buffs hosting four-team Classic
Pitt 8 Tournament results
Buffs shut out Classic opponents
Lady Buffs sweep Lady Chargers
WSL “Choctaw Casino Classic” tournament results
Buffs eighth at Early Tiger race