So the annual National Newspaper Association convention is a few days in the rearview mirror, and the America’s Newspapers “Pivot 2020” virtual conference is taking place as I write this.

 

It’s safe to say that both will be events to be remembered. … Let's face it: This year’s conventions aren’t your grandfather’s newspaper conventions. Not for attendees; not for convention staff; nor for the vendors. And we’re all just trying to do the best that we can.

 

But if you would allow me to get a little selfish here for a moment, I’d like to put a plug in for myself, and all of the other vendors who are sponsoring the conventions.

 

It’s no secret that companies like mine, Modulist, sponsor the industry conventions because we want to get in front of the key decision makers at each of the newspaper companies. By purchasing sponsorships, we hope to gain the best access to your eyes and ears as possible. I’ll be up front about that, but I also won’t apologize for that. Because that is how we stay in business.

 

The COIVD 19 pandemic has hurt everyone, and maybe newspapers even more so than much of the economy. But it stands to reason that if newspapers are hurting, ergo, the vendors who serve newspapers also are hurting.

 

Most of us in the newspaper services industry have some kind of background in newspapers, and so we love the industry. That is why we choose to stay in the game, albeit in a different aspect -- vendor versus newspaper pro. But that doesn’t mean that we are any less supportive of newspapers, and that we don’t want to see newspapers thrive.

 

I only hope that the feeling is mutual. 

 

During the NNA convention, it was hosted on a virtual platform that allowed participants to drop into virtual “exhibitor booths.” Part of the exhibitor package included a landing page where you could explain what your company does, include videos about your company and add many other features. And the virtual convention platform also allowed for each exhibitor to have a live video room into which attendees could drop in to have a face-to-face conversation with the exhibitor. (Think a Zoom room, if you will.)

 

Well, the experience after the one convention wasn’t great.

 

I place blame on no one. The NNA staff did everything they could to entice participants to spend time talking to the vendors who supported convention. And participants, I can only assume, took away a lot of the information they needed from the exhibitors’ information pages. With a quick stop at that landing page, they gleaned what they thought they needed to know, and moved on. For instance, I know that more than 50 people visited our company’s page.

 

But, overall, the virtual convention participants avoided our live video drop in room, and we’ll never know exactly why. … Maybe they don’t believe they needed our services. Maybe we didn’t impress them enough. … Who know?

 

But at least at in-person conventions, when someone stops by your exhibitor booth, you have the chance to strike up a conversation and draw in their attention. I’ve had many conversations with clients or prospective clients that started with that small exchange of pleasantries. But in this virtual world, if we can’t even get the participants “in the door,” to speak, that’s a bleak outlook for us.

 

Again, I share this as someone who is not only concerned about my own company, but as someone who is concerned about the dozens of other newspaper vendors out there who are friends, and as someone who is concerned about the state of America’s newspapers too.

 

The truth is that we vendors are here to make money WITH you ... AND to support your paper that is so vital to your community. It’s not a mutually exclusive scenario. In fact, I wouldn’t be in business if I didn’t want to help newspapers.

 

But the fact remains that we also need your help. For our companies to stay vital and to continue to do the work on behalf of newspapers, we need your support.

 

Trust me, I come from a 25-year newspaper background. I know how proud the fine folks in our industry are about their work ethic. And you should be. … But might I suggest it’s time now to check out what we vendors can do to help you all work more efficiently and therefore increase your bottom line?

 

Modulist and many other fine newspaper vendors stand ready to serve you! … Please reach out to us, and most certainly drop into those virtual meeting rooms until we have the chance to meet in person again! Thank you!

 

Devlyn Brooks is president of Modulist, a media services company specializing in the processing of user-generated paid content submissions for newspapers. Devlyn spent 20 years writing and editing in newsrooms big and small, dailies and weeklies.