By JEFF JOBE
It isn’t uncommon at all for you to hear the comments that journalism is dying. The thoughts being fueled by newspapers folding or selling left and right. Social media is everywhere, everybody has an opinion and they are now publishing them. It seems there is no silence and everything is so political.
Truth in news is difficult to find.
In the mornings as I sit at the table with a local group of retirees’ or soon to be retirees at George J’s in Glasgow and I make my way through the Courier Journal I frequently cringe inside because their front page was literally all over social media yesterday. Nothing fresh what-so-ever and if there is something it has their expected biased spin.
I believe we are just beginning to see the future of around the clock live coverage and Facebook along with Twitter is changing the way we get our news. Cell phones have literally enabled everyone with the tools needed to report and photograph the next great story.
The great story of this decade is that presidential candidate Donald Trump proved he could go around the traditional biased media and take his message directly to the people through live social media broadcasts.
Like most things good and bad, we here in Kentucky will someday experience the same changes. First in the bigger cities and it will surely trickle down to every market including Hart County.
Currently the big city newspapers have positioned themselves for a sweeping blow because they have for decades leaned in favor of a single political party and with Governor Matt Bevin and his team of communication people realizing they too can go directly to the people with not only their message but accurate, as it is happening, breaking news.
This process is infuriating political spin columnists such as the Courier Journal’s Joe Gerth, Community Newspaper’s Ronnie Ellis and blog and guest Courier columnist Al Cross because Bevin has realized these newspaper’s no longer make or destroy candidates in Kentucky.
Of course, the decline in influence doesn’t fall completely on the shoulders of these men but they have done nothing to spur their newspaper companies’ readership. As a matter of fact, when you hit people in the face with insinuations that they are not intelligent enough to vote the right way or are voting the way they do because they are racists combined with endorsement after endorsement against an increasingly frustrated, worried and engaged majority of readers; why would anyone not expect them to turn to other sources for news?
This year my company celebrates 20 years of covering news and in those 20 years our readership has seen some slight ups and downs along the way but overall, we have very little readership churn (stopping and stopping). Most our communities have a certain readership base and seems to resonate around that magic number.
Let’s take Butler County for example. When we purchased the newspaper back in 1998 the former owners reported on their publisher’s statements 5300 paid subscribers and 20 years later we are in the neighborhood of 5450. These slight gains are not worth mentioning in the readership growth world but considering that the Courier Journal has lost more than 50% of their base since then it is a telling story where readership loyalty lies. As a publisher with roots in circulation I’m amazed how it would even be possible to lose hundreds of thousands of readers in such a short period of time.
Loyalty is a good thing but a company can’t rely on loyalty alone as a business strategy. So, we look for opportunities and do all we can to expand on them. Facebook and an online presence has added another 3,000 weekly visits we never dreamed possible for this community. Literally, we get views of the Butler County newspaper from other countries and across the state every single day. We offer these clicks for free to our loyal advertisers.
While the off-base coverage and internet has helped with the demise and influence of the once giants it has also nipped away at the group owned newspaper chains who practice the same political strategy and influence attempts such as CNHI’s Glasgow Daily Times. In 2008 they advertised a paid circulation average of 8271 while Jobe Publishing’s Barren County Progress reported a publisher’s statement of only 2,626 paid average.
Fast forward to our most recent publisher’s statements for 2017 and it showed while the GDT had a one day average closest to its publication of 4494 the BCP has grown to 4357. We have almost doubled our readership inside this community while the out of state, corporate owned newspaper has lost readers just about as fast as the Louisville newspaper.
This change didn’t happen overnight and few other than our staffs probably ever recognize the fact that with each publication our newspaper is inching closer to being the largest Barren County newspaper. But you can bet national advertisers have noticed and because of business savvy marketers just as political savvy Presidents and Governors; they are now trucking their advertisements and delivering their messages to hundreds of small communities instead of dropping them in big cities.
So, the next time you open your hometown newspaper and you see national coupons from large national companies understand it is because of you and your loyalty that we are now getting them.
I am so very thankful for our readership loyalty and commit to do my best to live up to the support you have given my family for the past 20 years. You make me proud to be your community publisher, thank you.
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at www.jobeforkentucky.com