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Thursday, November 27, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Beam: Newspapers’ demise a myth

Last Modified: Sunday, September 15, 2013 11:34 AM

By Jim Beam / American Press

“No one is reading newspapers anymore,” the local businessman told me when I asked him why he hadn’t advertised in the paper recently. “I read it from cover to cover, but others don’t,” he said.

A local car dealer told me there are so many advertising outlets available he has to spread his money around. However, up to that point he hadn’t done much advertising in the newspaper. Other auto dealers are using the newspaper ­— you’ve seen their ads — and they are getting results, which don’t always come overnight.

After over 52 years in this business, I find negative comments about newspapers puzzling. The industry is changing, no doubt about that, and there is a lot more competition. However, there are still many readers out there and bright spots on the horizon.

For starters, I should mention that the American Press has 29,382 daily subscribers and 35,421 on Sundays. And those figures are certified by the Alliance for Audited Media, formerly ABC Reporting. With about two readers per subscription, you can double those numbers and you are talking about between 60,000 and 70,000 daily newspaper readers.

Yes, advertising within the newspaper itself has declined, but most of that is made up in daily inserts that are popular with readers. Look at a Sunday paper if you doubt that. There are also other signs that demonstrate how effective any kind of newspaper advertising can be.

Walmart and Sam’s, for example, are fairly new insert customers. The chain avoided newspaper advertising for the most part during its early years, but has obviously learned that newspapers can sell products effectively.

Kroger’s is another good example. Other grocers have decided to mail their inserts, but Kroger has held firm to newspapers. And if you wonder whether it’s working, try finding a parking place at a local Kroger any time of day. The company also added employees, modernized its stores and improved its service, all helping to boost its sales.

Financial wizard Warren Buffett — to the surprise of many — spent $142 million in 2012 to purchase 63 daily and weekly newspapers, a number of them about the size of the American Press.

The Washington Post said at the time, “So why would a multibillionaire dabble in a bunch of community papers? Because they’re the most reliable segment of the business.”

The Post added that “small weeklies and dailies have been plodding along. Not printing money, mind you, but making a living.”

Success of papers our size is attributed to the blanket coverage we can give local news. We have over a dozen reporters out in the field producing local stories daily. And many of those stories are picked up by The Associated Press, the nation’s leading news cooperative, and circulated throughout the state.

Yes, you can get national news from Yahoo and Google and from Facebook and Twitter, but think about the source of that news. The odds are most of it came from a local newspaper or television station somewhere in this country. They are the only ones that have reporters to send out and collect the news.

Some talk radio hosts love to berate newspapers, but they don’t hesitate to bring up news stories they have seen in USA Today or their local newspaper. If it weren’t for newspaper stories, they wouldn’t have much to talk about.

KPLC-TV, Channel 7, likes to make fun of newspaper classified advertising. You’ve probably seen the promotion that ends with a couple throwing their newspaper classified section into a trash can. The fact is television’s attempt at classified advertising can’t hold a candle to a newspaper’s effectiveness. And KPLC bought newspaper advertising when it had an important message for its viewers.

We know people are reading the paper. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be getting calls from those who have a beef about something they saw or didn’t see in the paper. Misidentify someone and see how quick you get a complaint. I don’t know how many times readers have called and wanted to know if we had any proofreaders. Misspell a name or miss an event, and you’re in trouble.

Readers can find out what their government agencies are doing, check the obituaries and publish news about their clubs, churches, reunions and special events. They also make anniversary, engagement, marriage and other announcements.

Then, there’s in-depth sports coverage of the pro, college and high school teams. You won’t find detailed stories and photos of those athletic teams anywhere else. Readers love to see their own amateur photographs in the Shutterbug section, and those who have something to gripe about have access to Letters to the Editor.

Those are just some of the things non-readers are missing. The newspaper business has gone through a tough transition in these rapidly changing times, but that’s progress. We are learning to deal with the Internet and adapt to other technological changes, just as we have always done. Even the new owners of some of the nation’s largest newspapers are optimistic.

Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon.com, bought the Washington Post. He’s talking about a new “golden era” under his ownership. He said he plans to do like he has done so successfully at Amazon — put the customer first, invent and be patient. Readers are the same as customers, he said. They are still some of the best consumers in this country.

John Georges of New Orleans bought The Advocate of Baton Rouge. He has expanded by publishing the New Orleans Advocate and plans to do the same in Acadiana. Can he pull it off? Only time will tell, but at least it’s an encouraging development.

Don’t tell me people don’t read newspapers anymore. The circulation of papers like ours says otherwise. Talk to people in New Orleans who lost their daily Times-Picayune four days a week. Many are still angry.

Newspapers have gone through many changes since those old typewriter, copy paper, glue pot and smoke-filled newsroom days, and they are still around. They are going to have to adapt again, this time to the digital age. And if past history is any indication, those who do it well will survive.

    • • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

Posted By: Jessica On: 11/4/2013

Title: People Are Reading Newspapers - And Responding to Print Ads

Our company (www.mediabids.com) works with advertisers and publications to place print ads on a pay-for-performance basis, so we track thousands of print advertisements in newspapers and magazines all across the US. While I can't comment on which content is read the most, I will say that even with the relatively small number of advertisers we work with, print ads generate thousands of phone calls. In 2013 alone, the ads we placed generated an average of about 45,000 phone calls a month from ads hundreds of publications. In a lot of cases, customers who respond to print ads are new customers that aren't finding out about the product or service from another channel. People are still reading, and engaging with, newspapers.

Posted By: Cara DeAngelo On: 9/18/2013

Title: Avid Reader

I, too, agree with this story. I read the American Press (or if I am traveling, whatever local newspaper is in that area, plus the American Press e-paper) cover-to-cover. Every. Single. Day. My children will do the same. Also, I am under 40, as are most of my friends, who also read the paper. Print is far from dead. I think whoever said that they never see anyone under 40 with a paper in their hands probably aren't hanging out in the places that those under 40 do.

Posted By: TERRY SHANNON On: 9/18/2013

Title: The myth of newspapers not being read

As a well known professional media, (owner of Consolidated Directories from 1986-98, who competed with all other media and used every last one avaliable to me), expert, who at one time or another apporached the majority of all serious business owners trying to get ahead of their competition in the Lake area regarding all news medias especitlly print media, I must respond to this article. I agree with Jim Beam one hundred percent about the myth of people not reading the local Newspaper(s) and/ or acting on the purchase of products an/ord services in any town U.S.A. There are many people still using and acting on what they see in the newspaper. I am considering moving back to the Lake Charles area, (Moss Bluff), and the first thing I did upon arrival was to go to a local coffee shop(s) where I not only read the American Press cover to cover but I saw others reading the paper as I had to wait at one shop till a lady finished the paper I desired. At the Starbucks on Ryan St, I asked the manager if I could borrow the paper and would bring it back, (and I did bring it back), so that I could read a couple of articles more throughly.
Regarding comments made above referring to the fact it is only time. How much time? One year, five, ten years. There are a lot of people out there a serious business owner would miss if it were not for the paper. I can personally name several people under the age of fifty-five to sixty that still use the yellow pages, (that is the print media that is absolutely going by the wayside, (never thought I would say that but it is true). I think I am as qualified as any person reading this to make that statement, enough said!. Some astute people out there have simply not gotten on board yet but will be forced to someday soon. Some of the people I am talking about are seasoned professional and highly intelligent business owners but did not know how to punch my phone number into their cell phone when I called them. In the meantime many are still using the yellow pages and yes even moreso reading the American Press. The group most likely to be reading the newspaper is that group known as, "The Baby Boomers." Those Boomers for the most part are the individuals who now have more discretionary money than other generation in American history. AND THEY SPEND IT. Most do not have to wait on loan approval to purchase a new Chevrolet from Billy Navarre. They can pay cash, although that is not what a car dealer and the bankers would prefer. Still they can buy and with less hassle. I too, am like Monica Hebert, read on the net. I am on the net at this minute but all of our age group are not as techonologically savy as some of us are because we either had to because of business or we are simply ahead of the curve. Although it may be true we do not see the younger generation reading the papaer, they may be reading it on their Kindle, (yours truly), their smart phone or other device. We all realize technology is here and growing rapidly but there is a hurge, giganic, large group of people who have just not jumped into that water yet. It is coming but it is not here yet and in the meantive if you are not advertising in the Amirican Press, you are missing some customers by not having that media to brand the name of your product and or service
One final thought. Let us say your son or daughter received a prized award of some kind of simple to great accomplishment and the American Press allowed their picture with an accompanying article to be added to their prised Sunday edition. . There wiould be people come out of the wood word, from church, fellow employees, neighbors and many others who would come to you sooner or late saying they saw their picture in the paper. Some of them would even send it to you like Professor Peter Dart did for me one time. That will prove people are reading the paper. If you did not have the paper you would search and call every friend you knew to save the paper for you. Last thing. for every person who tells you they saw your loved one in the paper, there are untold numbers of people who would if they see you within a reasonable number of days and then there are simply some shy people like me who would not know how to approach you.
Give it up. The American Press is not only as good as any business in the area, it is also one of the best affordable, unobtrusive daily sources of information one can find to get local information. Besides that dont't we owe it some form of loyaty for serving us before the net took the personal touches ot of our lives. If it had not been for the American Press when I move here in 1986, I don't know what I would have done. No, they have never helped me, I was one of their most fierce competitors and got many of their advertisers to drop them or at least use them less to purchase my product. Mr. Sherman and his crew were some of the most professional competitors I have ever had, although I did business with every reliable advertising service avaliable to me.
As for me and my house we will read the American Preess.
Terry Shannon

One final thought. Let us say your son or daughter received a prized award of some kind of simple to great accomplishment and the American Press allowed their picture with an accompanying article to be added to their prised Sunday edition. . There wiould be people come out of the wood word, from church, fellow employees, neighbors and many others who would come to you sooner or late saying they saw their picture in the paper. Some of them would even send it to you like Professor Peter Dart did for me one time. That will prove people are reading the paper. If you did not have the paper you would search and call every friend you knew to save the paper for you. Last thing. for every person who tells you they saw your loved one in the paper, there are untold numbers of people who would if they see you within a reasonable number of days and then there are simply some shy people like me who would not know how to approach you.
Give it up. The American Press is not only as good as any business in the area, it is also one of the best affordable, unobtrusive daily sources of information one can find to get local information. Besides that dont't we owe it some form of loyaty for serving us before the net took the personal touches ot of our lives. If it had not been for the American Press when I move here in 1986, I don't know what I would have done. No, they have never helped me, I was one of their most fierce competitors and got many of their advertisers to drop them or at least use them less to purchase my product. Mr. Sherman and his crew were some of the most professional competitors I have ever had, although I did business with every reliable advertising service avaliable to me.
As for me and my house we will read the American Preess.
Terry Shannon" />

Posted By: Monica Hebert On: 9/17/2013

Title: Low Number

The number of subscribers is rather low when considered in the context of how many people the paper is suppose to serve. Basically around 1/3 of the greater Lake Charles area are subscribers and I bet it is mostly retired folks. All of the trends are pointing to digital. How many 40 and under age group have you seen with a paper in their hands. It's NOT a myth, it is only a matter of time. Probably about one full generation away from printed papers being a thing of the past. And btw, I'm 58 and read all the news online. Have for years.

Posted By: Sean On: 9/16/2013

Title: Good read

Excellent perspective. The "newspapers are dead" myth needs to go away. People are reading information from newspapers every day whether they realize or not. Good stuff.

Posted By: Sam Montgomery On: 9/15/2013

Title: What a freaking Joke!

My God this may be the worst story the American Press has ever published--self serving at a level that clearly ignores any responsibility to report in an unbias capacity. WOW! This is a first for even this newspaper. Just lost my business forever. Jim Beam should never be allowed to write again for the American Press after this article.

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