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Newspapers-0, Arts Organizations-1?

June 13, 2009

In my post the Interview with the Editor I had the opportunity to interview an editor from a large newspaper here in Chicago. Many of the answers to questions struck me as very poignant for the times we live in, but one in particular stood out.

“What are the biggest challenges facing the Newspaper industry?

The continued erosion of the traditional advertising base — classifieds, autos and builders — is hastening the industry’s decline, but the major revenue problem for newspapers was established the moment media started giving away the product for free. Now the expectation is that information should be free.”

Two parts of this answer are striking and seem connected.

Firstly, that “the continued erosion of the traditional advertising base — classifieds, autos and builders — is hastening the industry’s decline.”

This is just more proof that the newspaper as a vehicle for advertising is becoming less useful. Not even old standbys like classifieds can help fund them anymore. As newspapers decline, we must find new avenues of communication to our audience, and one new avenue is very clear; the Internet. Which leads to the second statement.

“Now the expectation is that information should be free.”

This is one of the driving forces that propels Social Media and this is the great opportunity that arts organizations have at this time. While the idea of free content becomes debilitating for the traditional newspaper model – for non-profit organizations it makes complete sense. This is an extension of what organizations do, they create this content to enrich the audiences experience, not profit by it. We in the arts are the unwitting beneficiaries of this new media expectation. Content must be free, and arts organizations are in a unique position to deliver.

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