Episode 10: Marketing Dinosaurs

So in a day and age where everything can be found on the internet, where the written word was taken over by radio, which was taken over by video, which was taken over by interactive web-articles… Why do we still have actual newspapers? I understand there’s got to be some form of market still (probably older generations, or weirdos like me that love having a physical copy of something in our hands), but that demographic keeps getting smaller and smaller (and even most weirdos like me only feel that way about actual books, not clumsy flimsy newspapers).

And yet, I saw someone just today trying to pawn off subscriptions to the Toronto Star. This fellow would wander the store I work at, shoving a copy of a newspaper in peoples’ faces. Strangely it was a copy of the National Post though, not the obvious choice of the paper he was actually trying to sell: The Star. Maybe that’s why he didn’t seem to be getting any sales?

But even without his awkward choice of visual aids, and intrusive marketing style, he would still have had a hard time selling subscriptions. I’ve seen people come in with much flashier display stands (his was just a flat white plastic podium without any kind of markings at all, so not too hard to get flashier than that), giving away free copies, and offering signing bonuses of gift cards or free products from the store they’re selling in, and they still walk away from a full day’s work with three subscriptions if they’re ridiculously lucky.

Factor in that most newspaper companies are losing money on their printed format and are constantly reducing and restricting things like their comics pages in favour of more ads, and it just makes no sense to me that they’d continue this vain struggle. Clearly, people don’t want to subscribe to a newspaper when they can get the exact same information for free (or for a lower membership fee) from the website. So instead of just shutting down these costly and environmentally unsound methods (think about how many trees get cut every year just to make all the newspapers on a global scale), they keeping throwing money at it like they hope one day it’ll be trendy again to read an actual newspaper.

I understand that there’s always the problem of having to put people out of work, and it would be better to avoid that. But these newspaper companies are typically owned by larger corporations anyways, so why not try to find these people jobs in other departments or with the parent company? The printing presses can be scrapped and the materials used for much more worthwhile crazy technology (that will then have to be reported on by a journalist, thereby creating more work). The buildings that housed them can be sold to make space for other companies that are struggling to find office space.

Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe there’s some very good reason to keep newspapers in print, that outweighs all the negatives. But if there is, I haven’t found it yet, and until then I’ll keep wondering why they refuse to let this mortally wounded industry just curl up and die.

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