Jeff Ackerman: Reports of our demise are … just wrong!
Former Nevada Appeal Publisher Jeff Ackerman has spent the past
10 years as publisher of The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, Calif., before being recently being named publisher of The News-Review in Roseburg. Ore. (Both The Union and The News-Review are sister newspapers of the Nevada Appeal.)
His most recent column for The News-Review, reprinted here, is (or should be) of interest to newspaper readers everywhere.
It never fails. I meet someone new and tell them I’m the new publisher of The News-Review and wait for the inevitable.
“Sad what’s happening to newspapers today,” they begin, looking at me as if my dog had just been run over by a bus.
“What do you mean?” I ask, knowing what they mean, but wanting to hear them say it.
“You know … newspapers are dying and you will be out of a job soon,” they finally mutter.
“Oh … that,” I say. “You mean like radio and television?” I like to get them wondering what iTunes has done to commercial radio and what TiVo has done to commercial television. I watched the Giants’ game last night on my phone, in between emails, calls and texts.
I didn’t want to whip out the “So-how-is-your-business-doing-lately?” response because I know the answer to that one. Outside of the government, not many businesses are doing well at all in this economy. So I suppose we are doing as well as can be expected and better than most. Especially when you consider we were expected to be dead 10 years ago.
A lot of my colleagues left the newspaper business in the early 1990s, jumping on the dot-com bandwagon because they figured print would be dead by the start of Y2K, when the world as we knew it was supposed to end (before anyone discovered the Mayan Doomsday Calendar).
Many of those colleagues are unemployed today because the dot-com companies they went to work for went belly-up because there is something called a profit, which many dot-com companies failed to produce. We snagged a bunch of cool furniture at my last newspaper from one of those bankrupt dot-com startups.
Here’s a secret I hope to share with as many people as I can over the next few months: More people are reading The News-Review than ever before. In fact, The News-Review is the largest media company in Douglas County (Ore.), and there is no close second.
That’s right, we are a media company … and those who do not read our award-winning newspaper or visit our website probably get one of our shoppers in the mail, or on their porch. It all allows us to reach almost all of the market. We even publish our own phone book, which will be delivered in September.
Then there is the value. There isn’t much you can have delivered to your porch each day, rain or shine, for less than 50 cents a day. Last time I went to the vending machine I paid a buck for a bag of chips that was mostly filled with air. A bottle of water cost me $2 and it wasn’t delivered to my house.
I would guess that in any edition of The News-Review you will find more than enough savings in classifieds or coupons to more than offset the cost of the paper. I’d say the crossword puzzle and horoscope alone are worth half the price of a Snickers candy bar.
But don’t listen to me. Listen to Warren Buffett, one of the all-time great investors, evidenced by his substantial asset portfolio. Buffett has purchased almost 70 newspapers in the past year, recently paying a whopping $142 million. That came on the heels of his $200 million purchase of his hometown Omaha daily.
And he’s not just buying any newspaper. According to Buffett, the ideal newspapers have to be in smaller markets (like this one) where there is “more of a feeling of community,” like this one. The News-Review has been serving Roseburg since 1867, a tenure I suspect most businesses do not approach. The beautiful News-Review building here on Northeast Winchester Street is home to 70 employees, many of whom were raised in the area and involved in most all aspects of this community.
I am fortunate to be under the same roof and excited to share in their future and in the future of this 145-year-old business that is alive and well.