Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Last kick to the groin of THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS
Okay, this will be my last diatribe against the "new, expanded" three-day-a-week, "subscribe to our twice-a-day email or go to our digital platform for the latest breaking news" BIRMINGHAM NEWS. See, I am sure these are good business people, doing all they can to serve their customers and the public trust, reacting intelligently and with determination to rapidly changing technology as it affects the media.
No! No, I don't believe that for a moment. I believe they are clueless and more than a bit arrogant. They should have seen this change coming and started reacting to it years ago. But I suspect that is where the arrogance got in the way.
Blessed with a building full of printing presses and a talented staff of writers and editors, plus a legacy of printing and delivering a daily newspaper for a long, long time, they obviously felt they were immune to technological innovation as it pertained to media. They even built a beautiful new and likely very expensive building downtown, across the street from the one that had served them well for lo, these many years, so they clearly felt business would continue happily. Did they not see how other media were being decimated by Internet, email, cell phones, satellites, and more? No, they didn't.
Did they not see their customers growing older, grayer, and falling away in shocking numbers, either dying off or choosing to get their news in more instantaneous ways? Did they make any effort to cater to younger or more technically savvy readers? No, again. Yet they continued to charge for advertising as if their readers were still there in abundance and actually represented the demographics that many advertisers craved.
Did they not see that there could be some kind of marriage between new and old technology that would made a daily paper economically feasible while still meeting the "I want it now and on whatever device I choose" needs of younger customers? They must have suspected it or they would not have created the relationship with AL.com, their digital partner, years ago. Yet they never seemed to fully buy in and make it a true working relationship until they had to...when they stopped publishing a paper four days a week and news-hungry readers had no other choice. And, from the looks of AL.com, they still don't understand that traditional newspaper readers are completely lost (read: "mad as hell!) with their dismal, confusing and flying-ad-dominated web site.
So for the last two times THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS has landed in my driveway, they have thrown me TWO newspapers. Sunday, the first three sections--including my beloved sports--were missing in one of the packages but all were there, thankfully, in the second one. Today, there were TWO complete papers, all in pink newsprint in a worthy breast-cancer-awareness effort...which I appreciate, what with my wife being sixteen years cancer free after a bout with that bastard of a disease.
And in addition to the continuing mass of typos, I am also bothered by the way they now do the comics and puzzles. Today, they ran the Wednesday ones first, followed by Tuesday and then Monday. That means if you do the Jumble, as I do, you get the answers to Tuesday's puzzle right there at the bottom of Monday's, before you even turn to Tuesday. And Monday's answers show up in the second puzzle, intended for Tuesday. Wednesday's answers won't show up until Friday, I assume. And though I am no fan of most of the comic strips, does this mean that regular readers of those panels that have continuing stories need to start reading backwards, from the last of the section, in order to follow their strips in chronological order?
Do they even care anymore?
Even before I knew of THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS's three-day-a-week decision, about how dismally they would fail in a promise of "new, expanded content," and how terrible a transition they would make to a replacement digital platform, I had predicted that we would be without a daily newspaper here in my hometown within five years.
I now predict that will only take three years. And I may be a hopeless optimist in that dire bit of prophecy.
Don Keith N4KC