The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Hold that obituary for the printed newspaper


The newspaper just won’t go away.

Years after its demise was predicted in the wake of increased competition from the internet, studies from multiple sources confirm that the printed newspaper is as solid a habit in American homes as it ever was, in some areas even stronger. This is true particularly in regions of smaller population where the micro-focus of the internet doesn’t extend. If you’re in Seattle, the net can drill down to specific neighborhoods with more people in them than in all of Klickitat County. That doesn’t happen in small towns.

Some feel that social media fills in those blind spots of micro-focus in smaller markets. The studies don’t support that. “There are two principal reasons for that,” states a recent study from the National Newspaper Association. “One is that social media is notoriously unreliable for almost any kind of information. For that reason, it tends to draw participants who are increasingly steeped in erroneous information and don’t realize it.” That’s not exactly the best constituency for good business or getting word out about things. Another key reason is social media in small towns remains a relatively small constituency for any given area of interest. It may have a fair number of users, but they’re composed of narrow interest groups that don’t often overlap. Messages poured out onto social media get filtered down to small pockets of viewers that don’t communicate with each other.

In study after study of marketing results in small towns, one phenomenon is clearly repeated: there can be a burst of activity in a particular topic area, but especially for businesses, the results are short-lived, and there is little repeat business. The overwhelming amount of unsubstantiated information in social media, the studies suggest, tends to blur messages and message-givers, even the serious ones, into a vague mishmash. Social media has a clear place for people to keep in contact with each other, but as a marketplace, it’s only a gossip hub.

So newspapers are actually growing in smaller communities as a central and reliable meeting point of information and communication. That’s certainly the experience of The Sentinel. Our circulation continues to climb at a truly prodigious rate in recent months, both in print and especially online. Our website gets around 15,000 unique visits a month. That is not a typo. The hits come from far-flung places, some very surprising such as Asia and South America. We don’t really know why the geographic diversity yet.

This growth is very gratifying. The news isn’t entirely laden with sweet perfume. Print advertising is down some, largely as a result of our ad sales rep now undergoing chemotherapy (she’s doing quite well, thank God). Businesses in Washington State are adjusting to the climb in minimum wage enacted without regard for the reality that sudden and dramatic increases in wages is a primary factor in inflation, as everything subsequently has to cost more, eroding the benefit it was supposed to implement. And part of our advertising dip is cyclical; advertising, like pretty much everything in life, has its ups and downs.

It’s an honor and a privilege to serve this community with this newspaper. It’s been doing so for almost 140 years now, making it one of the longest continuously operating businesses in the state and certainly the oldest in the county. We welcome input on how to improve our service, and we express deep appreciation to this deeply appreciative community.


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