Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest  |  06/24/2008

Freedom in Adversity

Pick up any newspaper ([nüz´ pa p r], n. A roughly cylindrical, folded sheaf of paper imprinted with black marks, usually found in a moldering cobwebbed stack behind the hydrangeas), and you will most likely find a story of yet another print media group going through consolidation, layoffs, or just quietly passing on. McClatchy Co., which owns approximately 30 newspapers and just two years ago purchased Knight Ridder, recently announced that it was laying off 1,400 people. Some of this was due to the economy, some to existing debt, and some to both readers and advertisers running off to the internet, a serious issue faced by the entire print industry.

News magazines are also feeling the crunch. U.S. News & World Report recently announced that it is moving from a weekly to a biweekly publication next year, and Time has reduced its circulation base to lower costs. Publishers in general are gasping for breath as readers and ad dollars shift to the internet much more quickly than anyone expected.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the internet. Quality Digest editors spend a good portion of our days researching stories online, but it just isn’t the same as print. How many times have you sat on your white throne in the peace and quiet of your ceramic kingdom, with no one to interrupt you, as you read The Wall Street Journal, Guns and Ammo, Oprah, or Quality Digest. OK, Maybe not Oprah. You just can’t do that with a laptop balanced on your thighs. Not only is it awkward, but if your laptop battery chooses that time to burst into flames, well… can you say “plucked chicken?”

But then, I’m over 50. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), the people who read newspapers are about as gray as the papers themselves. The younger you are, the less likely you are to get your news in print. Approximately 70 percent of people over 60 years of age report reading a newspaper on a typical weekday, according to the ASNE. This percentage plummets to less than 40 percent for those between 18 and 24 years old.

Print readers are, how shall I put this, dying, literally and metaphorically, and their children and grandchildren, who grew up on the internet, have grown accustomed to getting their news content there. Advertisers, lured by the technology and lower costs, are following suit.

Regardless of whether you’re reading this on your iPhone, your laptop, or in print while ensconced upon your American Standard, I share this view into the publishing industry to explain that we, like many of our readers, understand what it’s like to strive to adapt to a changing economy, demographic, and technology.

Here is what we’ve learned: There is freedom in adversity. Throw out the rule that says in hard times you hunker down. If you’re hunkered, you’re not moving, and you might as well be asleep. Instead, look for new ways to provide your customers with better products and services. I don’t mean just newer versions of the same old stuff you’ve been selling because, if you’re experiencing what we’re experiencing, it isn’t selling. We need to look at customers’ needs and give them something that they don’t expect.

The more dicey the situation, the more one needs to climb out on a limb. Take a risk. Do something so over the top that customers have to take notice. Give them something that will help them survive--or better, enrich their jobs or lives. Be outrageous!


About The Author

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s editor in chief.