The Internet is a major social interaction paradigm shift, and the
River Valley area needs to adopt it in all areas. I'm sure most people
would agree that the area is not exactly the most expediate in keeping
up with trends, but at least we are trying: Organizations such as YEL
have a wonderful community-based web site for communication, Fort
Smith's IT department has embraced the Internet and has great
technology available, and the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce is in the
process of building a state-of-the-art website to communicate to
members and businesses alike. The list is much longer, but you get the
point. A bigger point to accept is that the Internet is much larger
than a trend – it will be the dominant force of communication, maybe
the only method of communication, for generations to come. Nothing
else is on the horizon, and all forms of human communication is either
using the platform or will. Phone calls and television shows are being
delivered on the Internet, and soon radio waves, wireless systems,
alarm systems, automobiles, appliances, etc will all be using this
platform in one way or another. The Internet will be around us for
generations, perhaps 100s of years.
One organization that is keeping one foot firmly in the past is the
Times Record. How sad it is that we must subscribe to out-of-town
newspaper RSS feeds to get our local news on the Internet. I
understand that newspapers as an industry are having problems making
the adjustment, but most are at least trying.
There are many talented people at the Times Record, and I know that
they "get it", but not only does the site not have an RSS feed, the
information is at least a day behind, and the site uses obnoxious, loud
audio ads that play automatically when the user visits the site – its
almost as if the intent is to keep site visitors (customers) away. I
can hear the management suite now: "If we put old news out there, play
really loud and obnoxious ads, they will be forced buy our dead-trees!
We will not have to figure out a new business strategy! Genuis!"
It is a tired cliche that I'm sure the management over at the Times
Record has heard many times, but I am going to repeat it here: You are
in the news business, not the dead tree business. Dead trees are
simply a medium. Get over it.
Now I realize the tactics used in your online site actually keep
customers subscribing to the dead-tree version, but eventually these
subscribers will die off. Very few potential customers born in the
past 30 years will tolerate having to actually go outside, pick up and
read a grimy newspaper printed with cheap ink on recycled paper and
then go to the sink to wash the newsprint off their hands, and even
fewer have butlers that will iron their papers to prevent this (look it up, its true).
They want it electronically, and they want it now or forget it. Don't
even get me started on the ecological impact newspapers have on the
environment or the energy wasted in just delivering the dead trees.
as a news reporting agency are unique in that they generally provide
more quantity of stories with more depth and richness that no other
media provides, and those properties are perfect for the move to the
Internet. Just do it without insulting your readers and maybe you will
survive for another 100 years or whatever. Don't do it and television,
radio, magazines and pure-play Internet sites will do it for you. Then
guess what? The brand is empty; the unique value proposition of the
Times Record is gone to the competition – to the ones that do not use
dead trees, or at least the ones that realize that each medium has
unique delivery qualities to embrace and not to loath.
But this is not the point of my rant. My point is, I have no right as
a capitalist to demand the Times Record change their Internet strategy,
nor even determine if it is right or wrong for their company. After
all, it is their company, right? We can all vote with our wallets,
right? But, what really gets me upset is with all the positive things
in our area moving to adopting this new paradigm shift and trying to
attract higher technolgy jobs, the Times Record continues to stick in
the horse and buggy days, seemingly slapping all of us in the face as
we try to move forward in the Internet age. More to the point, the
Times Record's intentional disregard of the Internet is an
embarrassment to those of us actually trying to attract and build
technology companies in the region. Imagine a CEO of a Fortune 100
company visiting the city, signing onto swtimes.com and immediately
getting blasted with Bob Famous – hell, we may as well have a greased
pig contest for the executive's children and a barber shop quartet
serenade his wife as well.
Lets make one thing clear:
The City Wire was not created to compete with news organizations, but
compliment them – even sending more traffic to their site than they
would normally get. However, when there exists a vacuum for a product
that is sorely needed in our community someone will bring it to
market. For me, I'm refusing to purchase the dead-tree version, and I
will get my local news from other sources.