Would You Bet With Warren Buffett On The Future Of Newspapers?
Friday, September 14, 2012
Warren Buffet - considered the most successful investor in the 20th century, buys 63 local papers with emphasis on purely local content.
By Suzan Bekolay
The Pipestone Flyer
Call it counterintuitive, sentimental or savvy, there’s a reason why Warren Buffet bought 63 local papers to the tune of $142M in June of this year. Mr. Buffet is considered the wisest investor of the 20th century.
While the news about newspapers and print media has been dire, the Canadian Newspaper Association, other genuinely local community papers and their agencies across North America and Mr. Buffet seem to be on the same page (pardon the pun); the future of truly local papers is different than for those with content irrelevant to the community including national advertising which penetrates every household via the internet and other forms of media. In other words, hyper local content in writing and editing is paramount if the advertisers that provide revenues are to experience advertisng effectiveness.
In his letter to his publishers and Editors (Bershire Hathaway’s Daily Newspapers) he writes; “I’ve loved newspapers all of my life — and always will. My dad, when attending the University of Nebraska, was editor of The Daily Nebraskan. (I have copies of the papers he edited in 1924.) He met my mother when she applied for a job as a reporter at the paper. Her father owned a small paper in West Point, Nebraska and my mother worked at various jobs at the paper in her teens, even mastering the operation of a linotype machine. From as early as I can remember, my two sisters and I devoured the contents of the World-Herald that my father brought home every night.
In Washington, DC, I delivered about 500,000 papers over a four-year period for the Post, Times-Herald and Evening Star. While in college at Lincoln, I worked fifteen hours a week in country circulation for the Lincoln Journal (earning all of .75 an hour). Today, I read five newspapers daily. Call me an addict. (continues) I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. It’s your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town.
That will mean both maintaining your news hole — a newspaper that reduces its coverage of the news important to its community is certain to reduce its readership as well — and thoroughly covering all aspects of area life, particularly local sports.
No one has ever stopped reading when half-way through a story that was about them or their neighbors. (continued) We must rethink the industry’s initial response to the Internet. (continues) Times are certainly far tougher today than they used to be for newspapers. Circulation nationally will continue to slip and in some cases plunge.
Mr. Buffet has a lot of trust that newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. Others agree. National advertising, articles written by media agencies are treated by readers as data and no community - in other words, all brains and no heart.
Quasi local is also the kiss of death say others where the trust is diluted as the reader gets lost in information by writers with whom they really can’t connect.