EDITORIAL: Journal Register Co. a reminder of print journalism's instability

We all depend on news media to remain active, aware and informed in our society, but there is no doubt the industry is in a major state of upheaval and change right now.

Journal Register Co.'s decision last week to lay off 840 of its employees serves as a sobering reminder of that. The company owns Mount Pleasant's daily newspaper, The Morning Sun, as well as three other dailies in the state and several weekly newspapers.

JRC's decision is wise from a business standpoint, and while it is always tough to see anybody, especially our fellow journalists, lose their jobs, the company most likely had no other choice. At the end of the day, delivering news content is still about making money. Ad revenue is drying up in print across the board, and while website views continue to climb, companies simply cannot get the same kind of revenue from online ads.

We are in a state of flux in terms of how we consume our news, but that doesn't mean the industry is dying out. It means, like other publications, we must adapt. Central Michigan Life is not immune. As our online product and social media presence continue to expand at great paces, the amount of physical print readers we have is declining. People want their news now, not the next day, or in our case, two days from now.

That doesn't mean that those who seek out news refuse to pick up a daily print product, it just means they will seek it out in the easiest medium.

It's a reminder that the future of traditional newspapers and magazines, both in physical and digital forms, relies on them finding their niche and targeting their content toward a specific audience.

That's what the most successful news organizations have done in recent years. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, for example, have remained relevant by catering to a specific audience and marketing their in-depth content to them, instead of the general public at large. Same goes for successful local publications such as Crain's Detroit Business.

These publications are successful, especially business publications, because they offer in-depth reporting that can't be found anywhere else.

The main mistake media made was giving away news for free across the board, and, now, we're clutching at straws trying to grasp  a way to survive that we should have thought of sooner.


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