Optimist At Best

15 Oct

It seems like a lot of people are so bleak when discussing the future of newspapers and the comic strip.  I’m an optimist when it comes to it.  I think it will eventually IMPROVE.  Maybe not the actual print ratio, but the comics.  And newspapers are not “dead”.

I started working part-time at The St Petersburg Times in the mornings back in August (voted Florida’s best newspaper).  It’s just a handful of hours on various days.  I did it for several reasons.  One is – the extra income doesn’t hurt.  Two – well – I wanted an “inside look” at how the industry is doing.  If syndicated cartooning (mostly in papers) is what I’m wanting to do with myself (crazy, I know) I really want to get to know the newspaper and what exactly is happening right now.  That way I can feel comfortable knowing what’s happening by looking from the inside instead of listening to everyone else.  Plus, I’m in talks with a potential comic for the St Petersburg Times, so I really want to know the publication beyond the normal read (they really enjoy my other local comic, so after these elections, I’ll know more…since election coverage is kind of more the priority for now).  I consider this my personal internship for Nate U.

I’ve learned a lot so far.

For one, we’ve actually GONE UP in subscriptions.  On a Sunday, the St Petersburg Times has over 300, 000 subscribers. I’m not sure on the exact figures, but that’s all I do know.  (Exact figures are stuffed somewhere in the administrative office and I’m not a number person so I don’t care too much.)

I’ve learned that the cost of the paper isn’t nearly as important as the circulation, because that’s all advertisers care about – how many people is the paper reaching.  So, we also have the FREE TBT (Tampa Bay Times) that is extremely popular with a younger audience and old alike.  It’s readership is fueled by advertisers, but it’s reaching tens of thousands on a daily basis and is extremely popular.  So, when talk of how nobody wants a paper because it’s free online, from what I’ve learned, that’s not true at all.  Obviously, there is a huge market for a paper.

Print is just a different form of media that isn’t going anywhere.  They would give the paper away FOR FREE if advertisers can cover the cost (which they do with the TBT – just not the St Petersburg Times)!

It’s not an issue of people not wanting to read print or because it’s too expensive, like I’ve heard for so often recently from people guess-ta-mating.  For some it might be, but generally cost isn’t as big of a factor (compared to quality, which I’ll discuss in a second).

Have I studied these facts and have sources?  No.  I’m not doing a college research paper here (Nate U. is not an academic school at all).  However, I’m working downtown in a newspaper building.  I see it thriving.  Has it dropped because of the internet and economy?  Yes.  Everything has.  However, it’s not a death sentence that I keep hearing about.  Yes, there is a lot of the newspaper geared toward the web, electronic readers and phone aps, but just like preferring a Chevy over a Ford – print is just another option that people enjoy.  And even with the different sources that a newspaper will be provided, comics will continue to grace the pages, and I’m guessing improve (since there will be more options for space in digital format and so-forth).  That will also mean that cartoonist will be paid for their efforts – just like the journalist that provide news content for the newspaper.

So, I’m optimistic about the future of prints and newspapers in general.

I don’t know how long I’ll work my customer service job for St Petersburg Times.  Even the editors interested in a possible cartoon for the publication know that I’m there more for research and to just get out of the house for a few hours in the morning.  But while I’ve been there – and while I’m there – I’m seeing what’s happening.

A lot of newspapers AREN’T doing as well.  Some of it is because of quality.  With a bad economy, you HAVE to have a quality product for people to spend their hard-earned money on.  Think of an expensive restaurant.  It has to be really good if you’re going to shell out a buck fifty or so for a dinner for two.  That’s just the economy – not because print is “dead”.

Anyhow, those are my thoughts.

I could be dead wrong.  But, I doubt it.  Some people prefer coffee over tea.  Some like Archie over Jughead.   And some like print over digital.  There’s a market for things.  And the good news is comics have a market in print and digital media.  There’s profit, and there’s jobs for cartooning.

Now, time to hit the drawing board!



2 Responses to “Optimist At Best”

  1. Bearman October 15, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Here is the problem print is having.

    I get my news from many different sources and it isn’t the aggregator.

    Plus there are only 2-3 comic strips I still enjoy in print. All the others are boring (not benign but puns so bad I don’t get them) and I can’t for the life of me figure out who reads them.

    • Nate Fakes October 15, 2010 at 9:31 am #

      I’ll agree with you TOTALLY on the material in the comics. It’s in need of a change – badly! That’s why I think it’s going to get better. Just like an alcoholic, sometimes you have to hit the bottom of the barrel until you realize that you need to recover!

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