Communication articulation

You know when you hear (or, in the case of social media, see) those opinions, and you know they’re wrong, but you can’t immediately articulate exactly why?

In that sense, blogging for me is a challenge. I want to respectfully point out when people are wrong, but at the same time, I want to propose a plausible solution, and that’s usually where I get stuck. You’re wrong, but…

So indulge me as I talk my way around my opinion on this.

Last night, someone tweeted that they didn’t like that the local daily paper tweets out its stories before they make it to the paper. It’s a bad business practice, they said.

Um, in case you haven’t heard the town crier, apparently print is dying. (I say “apparently” because that’s a whole other issue that I have two opinions on, depending on the day you ask me and what communications/media project I’m currently working on/in love with.)

I see it as an either/or situation, and the paper is being smart by covering all the bases. Not necessarily by choice, but simply by my lifestyle, I consume most of my news online. Even though I would like to — and it’s how I grew up — I don’t have time to sit down with a hard copy of the newspaper and read it front to back. I have time to click on the links that catch my eye and read all the open tabs in my browser when I need a five-minute brain break. Am I missing things that I would get in the hard-copy paper? Absolutely, simply because of the method of delivery. News via social media has one (or 140) chances to catch my eye, and that’s it. The headline in an actual newspaper certainly helps, but if there’s an interesting looking photo, or I skim part of the article, I might read it when I wouldn’t have online, because of the way it’s presented. The other part of this is that there are people who consume their news in a way 180 degrees differently from me. The paper allows both groups (and any variations thereof) to consume news the way they prefer.

Timing plays into this “bad business practice” as well. The links online are up before it’s in the actual newspaper. So from a monetary perspective, yes, it’s annoying that you saw something online and read it for free, and then find it in your newspaper the next morning as an item you paid for. So from this perspective, you need to decide. Do you sign off online and not spoil your morning paper, or do you cancel your subscription and read the news in a more timely fashion while possibly missing those articles you won’t read unless you see them (see above)? (Tangent argument: we read differently online. So if you really want to argue a news item around the water cooler tomorrow, maybe it’s better to read on paper.)

But from an everything-else perspective, it’s still smart to offer both instant delivery and traditional delivery. If an organization has a short performing arts run, and they have a review in the paper, having it available immediately online extends the amount of time people are able to read about the performance and maybe consider going. Having it (eventually) available in the paper still reaches the audience who, for whatever reason, doesn’t consume their news online.

I don’t think this person was saying never share the news online, but that the timing was a little off. I think papers don’t make it easy enough to share — I was doing some archival work today, and found three really interesting stories that I wanted to share via Twitter. All three are from within the last month, and I was able to find two of them (this one and this one); the third one comes back as a hit but I can’t load it.

One of my favourite things about being trained in (and loving) print communication, but constantly exploring, learning and working in digital communication is that I tell people I get to make the digital edition (of whatever, if it’s a newspaper or a communication piece, etc.) do what print can’t. As you’re reading the story about the woman who learned to play organ for her church choir, you can hear one of her favourite pieces to play as well.

They can complement each other — I may read the story in print, but view the photos and hear the audio online. Offering options is not bad business practice. Saying it’s one way or nothing is.


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