Response to Column Surprises Even Me
by Kevin Slimp, December 2010
One publisher in Minnesota wrote that she had decided to give up before reading that column. After reading it, she said she started the next day by explaining to her staff that changes were coming. Not in terms of further staff reductions and budget cuts, but in improvements to their product.
A reader in Iowa told me she was so inspired after reading the column that she went straight out and sold a two-page center spread ad to a new customer.
Several newspapers in Texas ran the column on their editorial pages. Someone sent me a column from an Illinois paper about their renewed optimism in the future of print journalism. Much of what the columnist wrote was in reference to my earlier rantings.
With this in mind, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of papers calling for advice related to purchases and training. It’s one thing to say that we believe there’s a future in print; it’s another to put our money where our mouth is. Interestingly, I’ve seen more interest in improving photo quality on newsprint than in any other subject. Newspapers really seem to want to get the best reproduction possible. Color quality is important. So is crispness of the photos.
A second area that seems to be of concern to a lot of papers is the reliability of PDF files. Not only the ones they create, but the ones that are sent to them. After all these years, I still receive multiple problem PDF files every day in my e-mail from newspapers.
Perhaps it was due to end-of-the-year budget surplus or a serious desire to improve workflows, but newspapers appear to be putting a lot more money into hardware and software of late. Over the past few years, most papers seemed to hold back on expenses related to these items. Some theorize that this holding back means that equipment is getting older, thus forcing newspapers to make expenditures. Others think that many newspapers realize that print is what keeps us in business, so more importance is being placed on creating a product that’s attractive to readers. In either case, it looks like newspapers haven’t given up on the future. On the contrary, many papers are putting more money into equipment, training and facilities.
I’ve also noticed an increase in demand for speaking on these topics at conferences. In one instance, five different associations asked me to speak on the same weekend in April. At times like these, I wish cloning were an option. All of this indicates to me that most of us really do think there is a future in print. For the past ten years, we’ve gotten excited about the potential for the Internet and what that means to those of us in journalism. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of opportunity out there on the Web. But for the foreseeable future, our readers still look to the print product as their primary source of community news.
Thanks to those of you who send questions. My e-mail box is filled to the brim every day and I try to personally answer as many as possible. Sometimes I get a chuckle when publishers and designers write, almost embarrassed, that they’re making significant upgrades to their systems.
To those who are just getting around to upgrading older versions of software to newer production products, don’t hesitate. You’d probably be surprised at the number of folks who write to say that they’re just now making the jump from Pagemaker or Quark to InDesign. Sure, it’s taken a long time. There’s no need to be embarrassed or afraid of moving to something new. It’s time that everyone in our industry take a close look at how our publications are created and take steps to improve both efficiency and the final product.
Give your readers something worth reading. Make it look as appealing as possible. Give advertisers a reason to choose your newspaper over competing products. In the end, the little bit of money spent on software and hardware might seem like the wisest investment you’ve ever made.