Great post and comments! I’ve been watching various discussions of what’s happening in the newspaper business for quite awhile.
I cut my professional writing teeth on the local weekly back (waaayyyyy back!) in high school. The local paper was just that: local. It left national reporting to the big-city papers and regional reporting to the mid-size market papers. Now even the local papers think they need to cover national events.
But every newspaper is local, isn’t it? Even the big-city rags?
Now that we’re travelling full-time, moving from state to state and region to region, I’ve discovered what I believe to be missing from newspapers, and why they likely fail: they forget they’re local.
I want to know what’s going on — beforehand, so I can plan, and afterwards, so I can see if I missed something. I want to know about the upcoming festival, the latest on the local political scene. I want to know about the area I’m in. So I buy the local newspaper. And so far, of the places we’ve been, I’ve found more helpful information there than I ever could on the town’s Web site or via the CVB site or other online feeds.
Where newspapers go wrong is when they shift their focus from what they do best — which is focus on their immediate territory (whether that territory is the city of Temecula, CA, or inside the beltway) — and start to spend newspaper space on stuff others do better.
And that’s the lesson I think associations need to take from what’s happening with newspapers: know your territory. Cover it better than anybody else. Think of the long-term residents who want to see their name in the paper, and give new residents and visitors the information they want.
And as for micro-pricing? Absolutely a good idea. Just as I can buy one day’s newspaper without subscribing for a full year, I should be able to just purchase some of an association’s offerings. I’ve become a virtual member for every association in which I’m a member. Some of these memberships will fall away as I’m finding the dues just to receive their magazines (about the only benefit a remote member gets) just isn’t worth it. Offer me a special rate for that magazine alone and I’ll subscribe. But don’t force me into a membership I don’t want and won’t get anything more out of.
Micro-pricing isn’t about the pricing — it’s about the flexibility someone gets from it. It’s about some revenue versus zero revenue. It’s about keeping people connected in some way to your organization, rather than letting them disconnect and disappear.
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