Warren Buffett gets it right

Posted March 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks

Newspapers aren’t dying!

If you need reassurance, just quote one of the richest, savviest businessmen out there, Warren Buffett.

He said he “believes that newspapers deliver comprehensive and reliable information to tightly bound communities…”

That’s exactly what the Monticello Express strives to do each week.

Buffet knows a thing or two about the newspaper industry, having owned the Washington Post for years. He also acquired his hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald.

His interest in the industry centers on small to medium-sized newspapers, preferring to steer clear of your big, metropolitan newspapers.

Warren Buffett has a great sense of business and marketing. Why do you think he’s so successful?

He says newspapers “have got to be indispensable to a significant proportion of the community. It’s hard to do that in Los Angeles.”

An article on Buffett’s praise for the newspaper industry appeared online at www.usatoday.com. The writer, Rem Rieder, interviewed Buffett via phone.

Rieder said Buffett explained that “a successful newspaper must provide material that is important to its readers and that they can’t find elsewhere.” Buffett told Rieder that this is easier to do in a newspaper that serves a smaller area versus a larger city/metro newspaper.

For instance, people want to read about their local high school sports teams, not national sports scores they can easily retrieve online. This is easier to do in a newspaper like the Monticello Express, not a paper in Chicago for example.

While the Internet and digital times are here to stay, and don’t necessarily help newspapers, Buffett sees the larger newspapers dying off before hometown newspapers. While some newspapers are cutting back on production dates, Buffett said that “may help the short-term picture, but weakens the long-term health of the papers.”

One thing the Express team learned while at the annual Iowa Newspaper Association Convention in Des Moines in February, newspapers should charge for online content. Many of those on the panel we listened to agreed that newspaper should not be giving away their content for free.

Buffett attests to that as well. Rieder said, “He (Buffett) thinks newspapers made a huge mistake by giving away their material for so long.

“Why would people continue to buy the newspaper if they can get all of the content for free?”

Buffett was quoted as saying, “I’m not interested in the Internet for money. I’m interested in preventing the erosion of print.”

While your community newspaper is indispensable, so is advertising. Think of how many people receive or buy the Monticello Express and Shoppers’ Guide… While you may be “advertising” online in whatever format you choose (Facebook, Craig’s List for example), less people are tuned into your offer.

You may have a hundred “friends” online that see your special/advertisement, while well over 10,000 people receive our Shoppers’ Guide! There’s no contest!

Also, only a certain demographic uses the Internet and social media. You’re bound to hit everyone by utilizing print advertising. Personally, I much rather see and read an ad in a newspaper or magazine than see something online and have to remember when and where I read that piece of information.

For instance… if an eating establishment advertises for a special a week in advance on Facebook, I may not make plans to go out to eat until the night before. Then I have to remember when that business posted their special online. If they placed an ad in the Express/Shoppers’ Guide, it’s easy to grab the paper and look through that week’s issue. A lot less hassle!

So the next time you have something you want to get out to a wider audience, think of advertising in print!