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Still bullish on print here

Published 10:10pm Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Regrettable about the competing Suffolk Sun’s reduction to once-a-week publication – announced by the Virginian-Pilot’s editor in a front-page column Sunday about further downsizing at the regional daily – is the incomplete message it sends about print journalism.

The doom and gloom surrounding metropolitan newspapers drowns out a more optimistic narrative: the resilience of community newspapers like the Suffolk News-Herald, which has more print readers today than anytime in our 141-year history.

The more locally focused a newspaper, the brighter its future in an information marketplace that is overloaded with regional, state, national and world news.

Warren Buffett, a wise investor, got it right a couple of years ago when he started buying newspapers at the same time other experts were declaring us road-kill. He foresaw decades of handsome profits for newspapers that publish in places with a strong sense of identity and community and whose content is narrowly focused on local news.

Such is our newspaper’s experience in Suffolk, a community that just rewarded us with our most profitable fiscal year in decades, fueled by rising readership, print and online, that has made us the desired marketing method for Suffolk businesses.

For all the hullabaloo about the Internet, a medium we embrace and in which we continually invest, our daily printed newspaper still has, by far, the largest audience of any product we publish.

Fifty-two percent of Suffolk adults read our newspaper on an average day, according to third-party market research, and 78 percent of those readers frequently purchase goods and services advertised in the paper.

With that many readers and the ability to deliver those kinds of results for our advertisers, it’s easy to stay bullish on print, even as naysayers point to decisions like reduced Suffolk Sun frequency as evidence of the demise of newspapers.

If I were a publisher of big-city newspapers, I’d go “all in” on individual communities like Suffolk, investing in additional local news coverage, rather than retreating.

The strategy of the Virginian-Pilot and others seems to be just the opposite. Community newspapers like ours are happy to fill the gap.

Steve Stewart is publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald. Email him at steve.stewart@suffolknewsherald.com.

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