With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it’s the time for U.S. citizens to celebrate and appreciate abundance. Of course the United States doesn’t own the market on the Thanksgiving vibe, and many other cultures find times to take stock and express gratitude for life’s many gifts.
It’s not too much of a stretch to connect community newspapers to this great tradition of giving thanks. In fact it’s safe to say that many of our readers, particularly our long-time subscribers, see themselves as being in a relationship with their daily newspaper, one for which they are grateful. They have trusted us and depended on us to deliver the good news and the bad, the types of stories they need to make informed decisions about who leads their communities, a favourite comic strip to start their day with a smile, a raft of money-saving coupons because the whole family is coming for Thanksgiving dinner.
My mom, 87, confided today that she first reads the obituaries, then the anniversaries — looking for friends in both places. But after that she neatly separates the sections and reads them one by one, every word of every story. “I love my newspaper,” she says, in the same tone she uses to talk about her grandchildren. “I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Understand that I know that from a business standpoint we cannot continue down the same path and produce a product that only the elderly love. For too long many of us have, and we’ve moved quickly to develop digital products and events that serve a demographic on the go which is seeking news and information in more sophisticated and varied ways. My own daily newspaper subscription is comfortable alongside my Droid Razr contract, and all is well.
Still, as our organisations examine reducing delivery frequency let us keep in mind the critical need to work transparently with our most loyal subscribers, serving them with easy to understand illustrated navigation of new sections, roadmaps on where to find their favourite features on new — yes, maybe fewer — days of the week, and above all let us tell them the truth about why we are doing what we are doing. Candor about what ails our business model goes a long way with this large demographic, and how we communicate with its members is as important as any bright-and-shiny pitch to a newer, sexier demographic.
With careful consideration of the types of content our readers can’t live without, the preservation of great journalism and retention of great journalists, and by exhibiting the type of courtesy we’d bestow on beloved family members, our industry will have much to celebrate for years to come, in print, online, on mobile and in the hearts and minds of communities.