May. 20th Mr. Buffett wants to keep those across the fence conversations going
TAKEAWAY: It’s all about those local newspapers and their sense of communities, which may be the reason Warren Buffett appears in the media horizon as a super hero, saving newspapers that mean a lot to their communities. My own memories of working with hundreds of very local newspapers worldwide are among the best of my career.
So Warren Buffet announces that he is buying more newspapers, although I am somewhat intrigued by the fact that, while he got all of the Media General newspapers, he did not buy my hometown newspaper, The Tampa Tribune, which we all know is not doing so well, based on how skinny the daily offering gets.
He must have his reasons for leaving the Tampa Trib out, and soon we will find out.
However, it is obvious that he does have at least a good reason to buy newspapers, especially the medium sized and regional ones that are now part of his empire: localness and the sense of community that those newspapers have.
It is that sense of community that makes those newspapers so wanted and so needed by their readers. They are forever connected with the fabric and the history of their place of circulation.
Meanwhile in Silverton, Colorado…..
It is no wonder, then, that in Silverton, Colorado, the 693 citizens who live there chip in to buy their newspaper, The Silverton Standard and the Miner , refusing to let it die or become a museum piece. It is a story worth reading, and one that reminds us why someone like Mr. Buffett has faith in the sense of community that those printed newspapers are all about and what they mean to the people in these small towns that time may have forgotten, but that are alive and full of vitality.
As its website proudly proclaims: The Silverton Standard & the Miner is a national historic site in journalism. It is the oldest continuously operated newspaper in the Western Slope of Colorado, dating to 1875.
Even the NBC Today Show echoed the story of the town that saved its newspaper.
See video about Silverton and its newspaper:
Community and engagement
I am not at all surprised that readers in these small communities are so passionate about their newspapers, to the point of getting engaged in the fight to save them.
The most memorable times of my career have been with the very regional dailies and weeklies that I have redesigned globally, but mostly in the United States. As a young professor at Syracuse University in upstate New York, I used to get into my Chevrolet station wagon and drive through the snow, or the apple orchards in fall, to get to some small town that would appear in view at the end of a solitary highway, Main Street USA, the churches, the small department store and the newspaper office.
Make that THE newspaper office. You were never lost too long in these towns when it came to finding the newspaper building. You would just ask that woman standing by the corner, walking her dog, and she would tell you, along with a story or two about the newspaper. Newspapers carry stories, but everyone in these communities also had a story about her newspaper—-good or bad, of course.
Perhaps these were the most difficult newspapers to “redesign”. Try changing the nameplate with a picture of city hall, or the town’s mascot, or the flags, etc. Notice the train aiming at you on that front page of the Silverton Standard and the Miner.
Indeed, these regional newspapers were successful, iconic, engrained in their communities, with deep roots like those trees in the park in the center of the village. Their pages chronicling life in the town, reporting the births, achievements, weddings and deaths of everyone. With columns like “Across the Fence”, these newspapers chatted with their readers in familiar tones, about familiar things—-call it early Facebook—-stuff that fascinated then as much as it does now.
While the big metro newspapers replaced the fence with concrete walls of distance, stopping the chatting and conducting a more formal conversation (much to the depersonalization of their content and detriment to their circulations), the community newspapers knew, and still know, that this is where their impact lies. Move to the fence, embrace your neighbor and tell him what’s happening in your life.
So, Mr. Buffett, you are on to something here. Keep buying those newspapers. Keep them alive and thriving. Keep the readers chatting across the fence.
And, by the way, Mr. Buffett, take a second look at The Tampa Tribune. Perhaps you tell them you will buy them too if they just remember their beginnings, reach out across the fence and chat with their readers. Tampa Bay already has that other great daily to play the big metropolitan newspaper role.
Hey, The Tampa Tribune already has one of the best marketing slogans out there: Life published daily. Now it’s a matter of getting into character, abandoning the big metro notions and becoming that very local, folksy newspaper that is all about Tampa.
We folks chat across the fence too——when it is not too hot.
Of related interest today
- USA: ‘This is my paper. This is my town’
One year after a devastating tornado, The Joplin Globe feels stronger
- USA: Why Warren Buffett is buying newspapers
The iPad Design Lab: Storytelling in the Age of the Tablet
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TheMarioBlog post #1022
Posted by Dr. Mario R. Garcia on May 20, 2012
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Dr. Mario R. Garcia
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