All too often, we hear critics proclaim in their Nietzschean chants: “Print is dead. Print is dead.” Technology only seems to bolster this bold conviction. Just about every newspaper is now online and has a smart phone app, seemingly eliminating the necessity for printed news. But the hoi polloi of the world beg to differ.
Perhaps these critics need to cast their eyes away from the computer screen and take a closer look at the real world.
Amidst a struggling economy, every company is making cuts to break even. But the newsprint industry has a different story to tell. Subscribers depend on their favorite paper to get them through the day, and budget cuts in this industry typically equate to a loss in quality. Add sustainability to the equation, and things become even more complicated.
What is a local newspaper to do? Two words: stay vigilant.
Exhibit A: The New Times of San Luis Obispo. Founded in 1986, the New Times distributes 40,000 papers weekly throughout San Luis Obispo County, functioning as the largest circulated paper in the region. If that’s not enough, it has extended its reach to Northern Santa Barbara County as the Santa Maria Sun for the past 11+ years with an additional circulation of 20,000.
While other papers have sacrificed their staff and, subsequently, their size, the New Times has stood its ground, and stayed true to its green roots.
But sustainability always remains a burdensome task for any company in the print industry. Sure it sounds good on paper, but it can be expensive and requires a great deal of discipline.
Probably the largest part of going green is recycling. You may wonder what happens to all those extra newspapers that are left over before the new edition comes out. While you keep guessing about other papers, you can rest assured that the New Times saves its own from the dumpster. Alex Zuniga, one of the New Times’ publishers, comments, “Our focus is to try to reuse whatever we have. We recycle all of the paper that we use.”
As one would expect, such a commitment isn’t light on the pocketbook. As a widely circulated newspaper, print is obviously one of its largest expenses. Zuniga comments, “Recycled print is much more expensive, so in order to go green, we have to pay more.” The price of recycled print fluctuates, demanding a quarterly budget adjustment. Yet it is something that New Times has always done. Why? Because their readers care.
The New Times finds its greatest demographic in 34-54 year olds. Their readers may not be “spring chickens,” but they are still very concerned about the environment. A recent survey likewise showed that readers in the local area were largely educated and had a strong sensitivity to Mama Earth.
While, in general, news has largely found its home online these days, this unique demographic still likes to leaf through a “real” paper. As Zuniga notes, “People tend to want something in their hands.” While these readers may surf the web for national headlines on their laptop or smart phone, they prefer to browse the local headlines from a real printed copy.
As a truly local paper, the New Times provides readers with the regional news stories that directly affect their lives. The New Times has a nice website, but it’s often more convenient for readers to pick up a copy from the newsstands, especially when it doesn’t cost them a penny.
That’s right—the New Times and Santa Maria Sun are completely free.
Meanwhile, the New Times has been digitizing just about everything else to cut back on paper flow. The glorious PDF has been a benediction for the environment and has significantly reduced paper costs. The fax machine, once the only means of nonverbal communication has aged beyond its glory days and grimly rests with dust upon its keypad. From internal insertion orders to artwork, the office workflow is almost completely digital.
What a beautiful thing.
With the rising price of electricity, it likewise makes sense to conserve energy. As a result, Zuniga says the company does what it can to ensure savings: “We try to power down all of our machines at the end of the day, and minimize light usage around the office.” It can be a hassle to remind people to turn everything off, but these small changes add up to huge savings at the end of each month.
The New Times represents a fine model of leadership through simple, sustainable practices. Their combination of recycling, digitization and energy efficiency sets the bar for thousands of local newspapers throughout the world. In this digital age, small companies need to do whatever it takes to stay competitive.
To respond to those pessimistic critics: Print is not dead; it has only expanded its reach.
“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.” -President Ronald Reagan. Brendan Pringle is a regular contributer to Green Living Press.