The editors doth protest way too much
Editors across the land couldn’t let Newspaper Week pass this week without wantonly violating the primary rule in medicine and marketing: First, do no harm.
“Talk of the demise of newspapers is premature,” said the headline on an editorial in the Aiken Standard that was typical of the faux-plucky tone adopted by most of the editors laboring to make the case that somehow, some way, their publications would survive.
Who are they trying to convince? The readers or themselves?
“Over the past century and a half, Nevada has had somewhere on the order of 450 newspapers,” said the Ely News. “We're down to 43 now – a number that held steady this year even though one newspaper was folded, because another new one started.”
Now, there’s a hopeful trend.
As any sensible marketing or advertising expert will tell you, emphasizing the deficiencies or poor sales of a product is exactly the wrong thing to do.
Customers only buy products – or, in the case of newspapers, use them for free on the Internet – because they see a value in them. They don’t do it because they feel sorry for the vendor or the vendor feels sorry for himself.
Yet, newspapers can’t seem to stop their incessant self-flagellation over the challenges facing their industry.
If you want to see how silly this is, ask yourself this: What are the chances General Motors would buy the following ad?
“Sure, we know we make lousy, gas-guzzling cars that are expensive and unreliable. Sure, we know our market share is dropping because we have inferior technology and styling. Sure, we are operating in bankruptcy and needed a massive federal bailout to save a few of the jobs that we haven’t already cut. But wouldn’t you like to buy a car from us anyway?”