Have you ever seen a photo of a newspaper office from about 100 years ago...usually a group of mustached-men and women in long dresses and hats posing in front of a brick building. Sometimes the sign on that building said the name of the newspaper; another common sign on these buildings was "JOB PRINTING."
The actual printing of a newspaper takes anywhere from an hour to a few hours, once that is complete the press could sit idle until the next run. This is why companies (like our own) have combined printing operations to maximize the amount of return they get on very, very expensive machinery.
In those off-times, newspapers printed everything from supermarket circulars to specialty newspapers, trade publications, community guides, coupon books and even the newspapers of competitors. The more the press ran, the better the investment paid off.
As pressrooms have disappeared and consolidated, individual newspapers are missing out on that revenue. Some of that business simple faded, as some groups moved to electronic publication, and others moved to the consolidated operations.
So now local newspapers are left with a newsroom, advertising and circulation departments, some administration, and a whole lot of empty space. The print product is brought in each morning by truck and distributed to carriers; otherwise the once-bustling press room sits quiet.
So now we must ask, what can replace that lost business? What can make the community newspaper the center of the community once again? We have many ongoing efforts to bring the community into our newsroom - blogging, new advertising initiatives, crowd-sourcing - yet we are still missing one important piece of the community puzzle.
A hundred years ago, a local business or organization might have turned to the local newspaper for help with publicity - job printing. What is the modern version of job printing?
A web site.
So, here is something to ponder, an idea as old as newspapers themselves but as modern as Web 2.0. Why not get newspapers in the business of creating web sites, providing a complete solution for local businesses and organizations to not only get on the web with a well-designed site, but to tie in the marketing of those sites with the news product through banner ads and other traditional web advertising?
This would require people with a very different skill set, but they are already out there creating web sites, promoting them with social media, creating video and even producing good old-fashioned paper marketing materials. We need to find those people, perhaps partner with them or even hire them outright.
The effect would be to increase the reach of a newspaper back into the community, which will not only serve to make money directly for the organization, but support the news operation as it migrates toward the web by increasing the number and visibility of businesses that advertise on their news web sites.
Once again, the newspaper, or local media center, or whatever you want to call it, could once again become an integral part of the community and not just a side show.