The fallout following Facebook’s IPO appears to mirror the digital struggles newspapers have contended with over the past five years or so. Simply, it’s still far from certain that standalone digital advertising can pay the entire freight charges of any news or information-based operation.

As Facebook and Morgan Stanley executives steamed ahead with their due diligence, and assiduously collected the consequential hype for the IPO along the way, they neglected to study the history of the newspaper industry and its efforts to understand the true value of digital advertising.

For better or worse, the newspaper industry has become very schooled in the realm of overhyped digital advertising.

Yes, as an industry we moved too slowly to embrace online classifieds and then Craig Newmark came along. And we continue to overlook the value of our printed products, in the process reducing folio size and content.

Fortunately, we are finally finding ways to protect our digital content through paywalls and other initiatives aimed at preventing Internet thieves from taking newspapers’ hard work and repurposing it as their own.

Our printed newspapers can still be the central focus of a community, as long as we provide strong, insightful and locally focused editorial content. We cannot continue to eliminate valuable reporters, editors and copyeditors if we seek to have the local community embrace our products.

Facebook’s IPO should embolden us to continue to provide strong, colorful and focused newspapers that are targeted to our communities’ local demographic and psychographic profiles. You must continue to evolve your printed product.

Newspapers sit on a treasure trove of archived material, photos and other exclusive, and unduplicated, content. Think about creating special printed sections or a digital companion that can repurpose that valuable information.

Continue to take an active position in your community. Drop off newspapers at strategic and important locations such as language learning centers and local schools. The charity we provide within our communities will come back into our operations.

Take heart newspaper industry....

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, reaffirmed his belief in the newspaper industry last week when he purchased more than 60 papers from Media General.

In a memo he issued to editors and publishers, Buffet challenged his newspapers to make their products indispensable in their respective cities and towns. 

The financial markets are now watching and hopefully the confidence in the value of a newspaper will continue to grow.

For decades, newspapers have been the glue that binds communities. Now is not the time for publishers to relinquish that responsibility. Instead, the industry must step up its efforts to provide the news our towns and cities need.--Mary L. Van Meter

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