I am done with the next digital revolution, piece of crap, bull-shit that is peppering my e-mails and ringing into my cell phone.
We know what we are and we should have figured out after 20 years that the Internet isn’t going to put our print products into the ground, and we should have figured out it wasn’t going to be the next big revenue stream, too.
Our newest disruption to the newspaper world is Newton Now. We are competing with a Gatehouse property, The Newton Kansan, which has been deteriorating for several years once Gatehouse acquired the newspaper and took it from one of Kansas’ great newspapers to an unmitigated mess.
Our company, Kansas Publishing Ventures, owned a small newspaper to the southwest of Newton and another to the north. We ran a monthly shopper in Harvey County with most of our clients being from Newton for years.
Finally, the calls for us to put out a fine newspaper came from enough people, and we decided there was a business opportunity: a business opportunity for a print newspaper with a subscription-style digital product that went along with it (AKA: hard paywall).
It would have been cheaper and much easier for us to compete with a monthly shopper and a free-news website and nick and ding the established paper, but with a print paper, we could do much more damage and faster. We could eventually take over as the main newspaper in Newton, which we are on our way to being.
That was the plan. We did it in print because it works and the revenue is clear. Most newspapers are, at best, making only 10 percent of their overall revenue from digital products, including their websites.
This is after 20 years of experimenting with free content, every Dick, Jane, and Harry coming up with apps and other B.S. and the newspaper industry drinking it up like Eli Apple’s mother would accuse “thirsty girls” of hitting up NFL draft picks (look this lady up, she is hilarious).
Everyone was looking for the quick fix, the million-dollar idea that would take our print products and bury them for better versions online.
It’s crap. It was never going to happen. We are newspapers, and while someday someone might figure out how to make a very profitable community newspaper model online, I am not going to be the one throwing my company into the fray to make it happen.
So stop calling me, stop e-mailing me, and stop trying to profit off the so-called death of my industry.
Anyone who is paying attention knows that I am not to be scared. We aren’t going away anytime soon, and the idea that I need some digital agency to come into my company and show me the way makes me ill.
We are running a paper the way I think more newspapers should run. Sell subscriptions, monetize your content, invest in journalists, and value them. We aren’t going to be able to pay the most money. We can’t always make everyone happy, but our people are valued and feel a part of the process, which goes a long way.
We just had the best two months of Newton Now history, and that didn’t happen because our industry is dead. The Clarion, our west Sedgwick County newspaper, is chugging along just fine, and the Hillsboro Free Press continues to operate in a rural county with competition as the main source of information and advertising.
You can call me crazy. You can tell me I will fail. That is fine, because while your media company is throwing darts at the digital wall, I will be investing in journalists and the communities we serve, and we will see who is ahead when everything shakes out.