When I began in the newspaper business more than 40 years ago, my first job involved writing news stories on a manual typewriter, meaning I put finger power into each keystroke and then reached up with my right hand to sling the carriage return for each new line.
I typed the story on yellow copy paper, and it was then given to a “typesetter.”
The typesetter typed my story “blind,” meaning she could not see what she was typing. Each keystroke created punches in a tickertape, which the phototypesetting processor converted into letters. Perhaps because they had to be, those typists were exceptionally accurate. I make more typos in a paragraph now than they did in a day.
From there, I went on to the Mankato Free Press, and an electric typewriter. Toward the end of my stay there, we received computers, which were good only for word processing. Our words went into a mainframe computer that filled the space of a school classroom.
Next, I bought a small weekly newspaper, and two years later bought two Apple Plus Computers and a Laserwriter for $10,000. We thought we had died and gone to heaven, because we had six different fonts and almost unlimited sizes.
Technology kept advancing, and a few years later, something called the Internet was presented to the public as a way to communicate.
That changed everything for newspapers. Many publishers began putting their papers online, and then readers discovered that if they got it for free online, they didn’t need to pay for it to be delivered in print.
Still, print retained its reliable value, which is why this article still appears in paper and ink form in a free paper.
However, technology waits for no one, and when the Apple iPhone arrived in 2007 and then the Apple iPad in 2010, plus a host of competitors, some members of the public, particularly those who grew up with computers, found they prefer getting their news on their electronic tablet or smart phone.
Still, print continues to bring value to advertisers. Hard as it is for some young people to believe, some of our older readers still don’t know how to turn on a computer. Nevertheless, if you want to see the future, look no further than our schools, many of which now issue computer tablets to all of their students instead of textbooks.
So it is that those of us who work as information providers are evolving as well. We once sold advertising by the word, line and/or column inch. Everyone knew what a newspaper or shopper was, and our advertisers understood that they were buying space in the paper.
At the Record as well as elsewhere, that is changing. The Record remains a healthy community newspaper, but we need to help our clients reach customers no matter what form they want to use (phone, tablet, paper). We at the Record now are helping clients reach customers through social media, email blasts, videos and other programs. We also offer Web site design and hosting.
Print remains the best way to reach a mass audience, meaning everybody, not just existing customers, in a given geographical area.
However, some businesses need to reach only a small slice of the population. For example, at any given moment, only a small percentage of people are in the market for a new car or a new home.
Your computer records every time you go on the Internet to look at cars or houses — as well as anything else from books to clothes to music downloads.
The websites you look at record your online activities and, in turn, ads begin popping up on your computer advertising what you recently looked at.
This is called “target marketing,” whereby an advertiser can target people most likely to buy what the advertiser has for sale.
Some programs are sophisticated enough to send you a message when you are walking by the advertiser’s storefront on the sidewalk. Others send an initial series of ads, but then may wait a month before sending a few more in case you didn’t immediately purchase the item you were looking at.
In addition, newspapers market themselves in a geographical distribution area. Some businesses in our community don’t sell right around here. For example, those that sell products mostly to other businesses may have a statewide, national or global reach. Now we have something to offer them too.
Others, like a dental surgeon, may reach out 100 miles, since the number of people looking for dental implants is very small. With target marketing, we can help them reach those potential patients.
We also now offer a new classified employment program. Again, reaching beyond the newspaper, we also can place employers’ ads on most major job Web sites.
Our company has been working very hard not only to find the best vendors to support these efforts, but also training our salespeople to become digital marketing consultants. Eventually, we expect to become a digital ad agency, able to help any business with all of their marketing needs.
The pace of change is accelerating so rapidly, that we are selling products that didn’t even exist five years ago.
The paper version isn’t going away, but we aren’t your grandfather’s Record anymore. We are changing with the times.