This morning I saw this tweet about the fall of newspapers in the US:
US newspapers since WW2: flat circulation, rising ad inventory and page count, more and more writers to pad out the ad inventory with copy… until the whole thing goes in reverse. pic.twitter.com/l2RQoRsDQ5
— Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) September 17, 2020
This graph apparently includes digital as well as print, which is key. Note that growth across all metrics seemed to stall out around 2000, and around 2005-2006, everything started going downhill very quickly.
I think there are two key contributors to this decline. First, remember that in 2005 or so is when blogs started becoming popular. I started blogging in 2005 and there was already a decent community of bloggers out there. I don’t think usage was mainstream yet, but you could tell that it was heading in that direction. I also remember in those early blogging years how journalists looked down on blogs, how they said anyone could blog, but you had to be a professional to be a journalist! Over the years as blogs became more influential, journalists began to source bloggers more often, and many media sites added their own ‘blogs’ to gain a semblance of credibility. Times had definitely changed.
But another factor happening at the same time is worth noting. As blogs and social media use exploded, it meant more viewpoints and more discussion of the news. It also meant more discussion of the coverage given to news stories by journalists. We began to notice that a lot of the news was, quite frankly, biased. Some of it was outright dishonest. We see this today and it’s only getting worse:
CBS stole a Photo from Latinos for Trump in Phoenix and tagged it as a Biden event. #fakenews @DonaldJTrumpJr @charliekirk11 @drewsexton23 @kelliwardaz #LeadRight pic.twitter.com/Pmz1dt83Hv
— AZ_LD25FO_TDuc (@LD25_GOP) September 16, 2020
The reality is, mainstream media sources such as newspapers are struggling in great part because most of us simply do not trust the information they publish. That’s why we are increasingly turning to other sources for our information. I believe this distrust of mainstream media is also bleeding over into social media platforms. For instance there is a popular saying on Twitter that ‘Twitter is not real life’, to speak to how users and media reference opinions that are popular among the Twitter user community, but disconnected from what the larger population thinks or feels.
I think all of this is working to the advantage of those of us who are leveraging blogs as a publishing platform. I also think every company should think of themselves as a publisher. In fact, it might be more useful to think of it in terms of being your Publishing Strategy instead of your Social Media or Digital Strategy. By creating and publishing a steady flow of content, you not only help educate current and potential customers about what your company does and what its values are, but you help differentiate yourself from competitors.
But perhaps most importantly of all, publishing regular content gives you a voice and the ability to reach others. On August 31st, I relaunched this blog, and began publishing 6 new posts a week. I’m two weeks into this new publishing schedule. My traffic is already up over 30% in just two weeks. Granted, we still talking small numbers, less than 100 visitors a day, but that still shows the power of creating content to drive awareness and generate interest.
Do this experiment; Think of your company as being a publisher. What would you talk about? What messages would you want to communicate to your customers? What would you want them to know about you? What areas would you cover? You could even view the publishing as creating sections of a newspaper. You could have a business section, a news section, a leisure section, an editorial section, etc.
We are all the news now. Make sure your company is sharing its voice, don’t settle for opting out of the conversation happening around and about your company. Take an active role in it.