It is a wonder daily newspapers that cling to archaic business models still exist at all. While I enjoy thumbing through a daily even now, I can’t get over the fact the paper gets ever smaller while still trying to report news items it cannot possibly hope to cover in-depth. Newspapers with their smaller numbers of pages have spread themselves too thin coverage-wise, leaving no way out of their self-imposed time-outs in corners of pending obsolescence. The need for a self-service option when it comes to newspapers might be the one way to remove this print staple from life support.
While there are choices online with paid subscriptions, the high availability of quality content elsewhere leaves consumers with a plethora of free choices for their daily news fixes. Since daily papers across the country are hiring editors-in-chief with purported new visions of how to run dailies and keep them profitable, one thing they might be wise to consider is the potential of an a la carte newspaper. I will explain what I mean here, shortly.
Ironically enough, the financial printing industry usurped its commercial printing brother when it came to modernizing in time–but that was only by companies who offered alternative methods of providing service outside of the traditional way financial printers did. We have covered various particulars on financial printing here at hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley, and the articles that gained traction and attention were those reporting the demise of such industry old reliables as the venerable “Inhouse”–which proved to be not so venerable after all.
Through a good mix of timing, functional software and aggressive sales forces, companies that offered self-filing services with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ripped the proverbial football from the arms of the old school financial printers. Continuing with this gridiron metaphor, some old school financial printers are still fumbling the pigskin today by insisting their expertise is the only way to be sure of accurate XBRL tagging and compliance. Many customers beg to differ however, after seeing how much money they can save via self-filing provisional software that takes the mystery out of the XBRL mandate.
Several years ago I envisioned cloud-based, collaborative self-filing methodologies as the wave of the future. I hate saying “wave of the future,” because it’s used too much, but in this case, it’s still the most appropriate verbiage. Old school financial printers, while more heavily advertising their “do it for you” model (and why wouldn’t they since these margins are their bread and butter), have introduced their own self-filing software behind the scenes. They had no choice in order to remain competitive. Once the marketing efforts of companies that offer self-provisioning software solutions maximize their branding and messaging efforts (read cull more of the old school printers’ business), the behind-the-scenes self-filing software promotions of old school printers will be replaced in favor of advertising that reflects this shift.
There are so many ways that old school financial printers still get it wrong, it’s a wonder they stay in business. Their fears radiate from one corridor of their C-suite to the next. “We have the expertise! Self-filers do not! You’re taking chances doing it yourself! What if the SEC cracks down on XBRL tagging errors? Do you want to risk hefty fines or worse?” These are all utterances that beg the question, can any potential customers of financial printers be assured they are safer if they let someone else do their tagging and filing? I would suggest if done properly, self-serving solutions are just as safe as those offered by experts who would do it for you.
News yourself and anyone that looks like you
There could be other ways to implement what I am about to propose, but what I will lay out on the table bears consideration. Newspapers are still static in their content. Editors give their readership all the news fit to print (within a shrinking number of pages overall). The relevance of newspapers to individual consumers is also declining. What newspapers need is some freshness, some newness, some newsness if you will, that does not mean flashy splashes of color in their mastheads or more photographs or editorials. What they need to do is let consumers news themselves. Bob, you’re losing it, I’m hearing you say. But stay with me here…
I know I spent far too much space on the financial printer piece of this column when I was proposing an idea on how to save the daily newspaper. With the Rupert Murdoch’s and media moguls of the world gobbling up print vehicles faster than Rolls Royce’s, what these billionaires need to do is spend some of their money on this idea:
Keep your print capacity. As a newspaper, you want to have a printed version always. It’s not cost-effective to continue papers the way they are now. It is not a 21st century way of news dissemination any longer because it does not cater to individualized tastes–the key to the continued proliferation of newspapers in our lifetime.
What if daily newspaper subscribers could choose the writers of the articles they read, the subject matter of the stories themselves, and the number of pages of content they would pay for? Call me crazy, but this idea might have legs. Newspapers are already hemorrhaging money. Yeah, this will cost a bit up front until it catches on, but hell, if you don’t have deep pockets as a newspaper publisher these days, you’re in the wrong business. Much like when someone opens a restaurant and is prepared to lose money for six months to a year before turning a profit, this idea would need some breaking in before it would succeed.
The way you could have your own customized newspaper delivered daily to your home would take some planning. Subscribers would have to submit their writer, content and publication page size requests a month in advance so press times would not be jeopardized. Printing is more efficient nowadays than ever. Surely we can program the presses to accommodate this revolution in newspaper customization.
I could break this down more, but there is no need to. Newspapers have to do something radical to survive. I love reading the printed word. Tablets and computer monitors have contributed more to deteriorating vision in the world than news print ever has. I can’t quote studies, but there’s fewer headaches reading off paper than screens, too. When’s the last time you got a headache from reading something in the newspaper?
When’s the last time you got a headache reading something here? Wait, don’t answer that. But you get my point, right?
Custom print-on-demand newspapers = life
Newspapers continuing the way they are = death
Better? Don’t laugh…it could (and it should) happen.