Print is dead … until it makes a mistake, criticizes a public figure or releases an uncomfortable set of facts. Then, the phone rings and the letters flow.
Clearly, someone is reading local newspapers or this uncomfortable circumstance wouldn’t occur, which is why the dead-print assertion by a member of the Ocean Pines Board of Directors this week cannot be universally applied.
Unfortunately, many people tend to lump community weeklies with the daily print media, which has suffered mightily over the last couple of decades. Meanwhile, local newspapers continue to do well by covering schools, community events, small governments and, well, community association boards of directors.
In addition, a survey conducted last year by Susquehanna Polling and Research in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania found that community newspapers beat the Internet and other digital offerings 3-1 as the go-to source for local news.
That’s why local weeklies have not suffered much in the digital age. They concentrate on the “local,” that isn’t available on the Internet, except on the websites of local weeklies themselves.
This also is why the directors, whose members are looking to slash marketing expense, need to reflect first on whom they’re trying to reach with their message.
In this area, local newspapers have the best of both worlds: thousands of loyal local readers, as well as visitors and second-property owners, who want to know what’s going on that could affect them along with where to go and what to do.
That’s Ocean Pines’ market — year-round residents, part-time residents and visitors. No one can say precisely what ought to be spent on marketing, just as no one knows what the perfect message might be, or whether the product being marketed resonates with the target audience. This is what the board should discuss as it weighs the expense versus the return.
Meanwhile, print is just a vehicle — and a good one — to spread whatever message the board decides it wants.