Reversing the newspaper slide

The latest Advertising Age has more dire news for newspapers: In the past six months, U.S. papers have lost another 1.2 million readers as their long-term slide into oblivion continues.
Even some of the best papers in America — The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun and more — saw depressing declines. The San Francisco Chronicle lost more than 15 percent of its readers in the six months between Oct. 1 and March 30.
While the industry flails around searching for some juju to pump life back into an increasingly stale product, the answer remains obvious: Sell papers to a new generation instead of pumping out a product for the parents of Baby Boomers.
It’s time to treat young people with respect instead of dismissing them at every turn as apathetic, greedy, mindless, tv-watching, video game-playing morons who somehow simultaneously start companies, invent industries, swamp Harvard with perfect SAT scores and suchwhat.
Instead of treating young people as freaks, it’s time to take them seriously.
And here’s what they want: a newspaper that’s not hopelessly dowdy.
Papers should be funny, full of important news, vicious toward incompetents, able to show their heart without pandering, full of great pictures, showcase comics that didn’t lose their way decades ago, turn out sports pages that pay attention to new sports as well as old, stay honest and open to readers at every turn, and be eager to lead America into a better future.
Papers need websites that are chock full of interesting stuff, too, because we have to admit that newspapers may not be printed before long — so building readership online is vital.
Newspapers need to embrace a changing language and a changing culture.
They need to get with the times because the world is changing a whole lot faster than newspapers.
At The Tattoo, we’re excited about the possibilities. But we’re terrified that bean counters and cowards will hold the press down instead of letting it soar.

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Copyright 2006 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.

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