Friday, March 27, 2009

The Demise of News[papers]?

Beaten to a Pulp? What will fishmongers and bird owners do?

Denver, Seattle, Detroit … the itinerary of death for pulp nonfiction wends its way across our land. While our sub-head [please pardon the technical term, won't you?] may seem a bit frivolous [but clever!], the topic most certainly is not.

Most articles – or screeds, if you will – which one reads on this topic are predictable in their tone and focus. “Oh, dear,” moans the editorialist, “American civilization is doomed to collapse as precipitously as the circulation of [insert major metropolitan newspaper here]! If citizens don't read newspapers, they'll vote for the politician with the whitest teeth or cleanest collar. Without the journalistic class to protect the masses, they'll follow someone else's lead instead.

This musing is different. Frankly, we here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC don't see that the journalistic class has done all that much good for us as a nation [especially lately!], nor that it's necessarily a bad thing to give someone else a turn at leading the gullible to the public trough to be fattened for slaughter and exploitation. Well, granted that is necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily a worse thing.

At any rate, this musing is different, in that it purports to concern itself with the long-term effects of this sea-change in information distribution modes on more important matters – marketing and advertising. Think about it; how many of us grew up as workers and entrepreneurs by starting with the [no longer, alas] ubiquitous paper route as a first job? The virtual overflow of our in-box here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC is largely due to a plethora of messages on just the topic broached above – where will decent employees be found in the future, when there are no newspaper delivery routes to hone their sense of responsibility?

Sadly, the answer seems to be: “Sorry, haven't a clue, please move on to the next topic.” Of course, that's only the first brush at an answer, but it seems to be held quite nearly universally. It has been estimated elsewhere that of the [nearly!] 10% unemployment we see in these United States, somewhere between 3 and 7 points are directly attributable to employers hesitation to hire new workers who are seen as potential slackers at best, and certain dead-beat lay-abouts at worst.

Of course, the Mumbai Times [or whatever the Bombay Post is now called – why do these cities keep changing their names? I still want to visit Constantinople, my friends, but I'm thwarted at every turn.] simply couldn't have employed the teeming multitudes of that fabled metropolis in its delivery ranks, and companies here are discovering that a slacker in Mumbai, India is not really much less expensive than one in, say, Merchantville, New Jersey – and the phone charges are actually [generally!] much lower when employing the domestic variety.

"Well and good," I hear you moan, "but what does this all mean for me as a marketer or advertiser?" and well you should ask that. Consider this thought experiment, won't you?

  • Newsprint, the "paper" part of these news-papers, is a renewable resource, admirably administered by our friends in the timber and pulp-wood industries. Should the need for said product "dry up" or decline, there will be fewer of those rugged lumber-jacks chopping down trees and eating their respective lunches.
  • Next, and perhaps more importantly, there will be less "virgin" [pardon the expression] newsprint available for recycling.
    "Get on with it, Jay!" you say, and so I shall - but be warned, this next bit is hardly for the squeamish among you.
  • With less fresh paper available to be put into recycled paper and cardboard for packaging, our clients and marketing partners will find it more and more difficult to – truthfully – label their packaging as being comprised of large percentages of post-consumer recycled products.
  • Frighteningly, just at the juncture where it is essentially essential to be seen as "green" or Earth "friendly" by the consumer, their own changing habits will stick a monkey-wrench, wooden-shoe-like, into the very mechanism to which they have sent us.

Well, I'm sure that having read the foregoing, each of you, dear readers, has reached the inevitable conclusion that our own employees will hate us for refusing to be "green" by using recycled paper products, the raw materials of which they have refused to supply by refusing to read newspapers. Of course, these very employees, having missed out on the training and in-doctrination normally supplied by working a paper route, will drag our companies' productivity down to the levels of those in Hungary, Canada, and other third-world nations.

We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC are nothing if not optimists, but soon we may be nothing.

Your comments and commiseration are welcome, as always.

Last time, Jay wrote about entertaining clients and subtance abuse:
Bill Wilson responded:
"Jay, I think your thumbnail hits this picture right between the eyes. I remember when I started in advertising, and it was nothing for us to down three or four cocktails before lunch, and then have a few more when we got to the restaurant. Of course, it didn't really affect the work we did, nor do I think I have a problem with ..."

Bill, I think it's time to move out of Egypt, and away from de-nial, my friend. Please, seek competent help while you can still count to twelve!

-- Jay