For now, we remain mainly a paper product

Written by Richard Wiens, The Triplicate January 28, 2013 05:28 pm

A recent letter from a longtime resident illustrates the challenges facing the newspaper industry these days.

The writer said she had lived in Del Norte for two-plus decades and always relied on the Triplicate for “local news as well as national headlines.” She’s never been a subscriber, however, preferring to occasionally “buy editions that seem to have articles about something relevant that piques my interest.”

Her beef was that the newspaper doesn’t post its product to its website “in a timely fashion.”

In other words, c’mon Triplicate, join the Internet age and give us your product instead of selling it.

She assumed we could collect enough revenue through online advertising to compensate for letting people read the news for free. Unfortunately, that has proven to be an industry-wide fallacy resulting in dramatic downsizing and even closure of some newspapers.

Here’s the truth, at least in Del Norte: For the foreseeable future, the fortunes of the local newspaper are inextricably tied to its print product.

That is why we don’t post local articles and photos to our website from one edition until the next edition is already in our subscribers’ hands or available for purchase at stores and machines.

We make frequent exceptions for breaking news that we post immediately. And we alert our Facebook friends with news bulletins or notes about upcoming coverage.

Triplicate.com also offers a feature many other newspapers do not: a searchable database of past articles, at no charge. So it’s not as if we’re Internet-unfriendly.

If you’re reading this on paper, the fact that you’ve already made it to Page 4 means what I’m about to say is probably no news flash to you:

A local newspaper is crucial to any community, especially one as isolated as ours. The Triplicate is the only forum Del Norte has for full engagement in local issues and information. Unlike blogs and Facebook pages that provide glimpses of what’s going on here, the newspaper is where you can turn to hear all sides and to read the work of professional journalists who take an eyes-wide-open approach to their reporting.

It also happens to be where you can enjoy some of the best photography you’ll find in a small-town newspaper anywhere in America.

We’re small and scrappy and far from perfect. We’re also essential, but that fact doesn’t pay the bills.

“How’s the Triplicate doing?” I get asked that a lot more these days. The questioners come from all points on the political spectrum. Some are public officials, others simply Del Norters who recognize the newspaper’s role as the community’s listening post.

“We’re doing OK,” I respond. “We’re still in the black,” I might add, because I recognize the concern goes deeper than just “how you doin’?”

Some hard-working people are scrambling to get the best possible newspaper into your hands. They work in advertising, circulation and news, and at our printing press facility in Smith River.

But the fact is, their best efforts alone are not sufficient. Someday the economic model might be in place for us to thrive in cyberspace. For now, we’ve got to make it with newsprint and ink.

How’s the Triplicate doing? You’ll ultimately answer that question by deciding, as a reader and an advertiser, whether or not to support the newspaper.