This week I traveled to Orlando, where I was privileged to participate in the strategic planning session for the PaperChain group. Two national associations and state and regional groups created PaperChain as the branding, education and marketing arm of the Free Paper Industry. Along with 18 other industry professionals, including publishers and association executive directors, we mapped out a plan to create greater awareness and improved visibility for these publications built on the bedrock of the American entrepreneurial system.
Even with so many changes happening in the way communication companies operate, combined with the effects of changing technology and the struggling economy, the Free Paper Industry — primarily made up of privately owned local companies — has weathered the last four years very well. PaperChain was established to bring greater attention to the industry made up of small companies, like Denton Publications, that are built around the local economy. Though the companies are small, they together reach over 54 million homes in the United States and growing.
Independently operating small firms like these have typically been overshadowed by other traditional, highly-financed forms of media. But with declining circulations in the paid newspaper industry and a plethora of electronic options, the audited free paper industry continues to grow in acceptance, producing strong results for their customers. Since these publications have always had a strong focus on local news and information, they haven’t had to reinvent themselves to fit the changing information landscape. All they needed to do was continue doing what they’ve been doing for years. The success of these free publications has in many ways led to the circulation losses of many paid publications who focused so much attention on national, international and statewide news at the expense of a strong local component. As more daily publications were acquired by large corporate entities, they were willing to sacrifice local staff in return for a stronger bottom line.
Fast forward to 2012 and the presidential election. The uncontrolled dollars amassed by the political Super PACs will create the media version of the Perfect Storm later this year. It’s projected that nearly every available television commercial spot will be sold out to political advertising, forcing all other segments to seek promotion of their products and services elsewhere. At PaperChain and Denton Publications we intend to make a convincing argument that free community newspapers are the ideal choice for advertisers forced to seek other advertising methods to reach consumers in a cost-effective way. It’s a challenging and exciting time to be a part of this whole process.
Political mud is apparently best slung electronically on television — something I am witnessing firsthand in Florida this week. We will witness the same later this year during the New York primary and this fall when the race to the White House takes center stage. In Florida they are calling it “carpet bombing” as the Republican political ads seem to run non-stop, bashing their opponents in the most vicious fashion. And, of course, these fellows will be allies this fall when President Obama and his Super PACs open their wallets and arsenals in an attempt to discredit any alternative to his second term. The big question will be whether the Republican candidates place so much doubt in voters' minds that they effectively damage their nominee when he runs against President Obama. Or have the voters become so accustomed to this type of advertising that it has no affect on how we cast our ballot? Everyone knows negative advertising works, will it work so well that America will be unable to optimistically look to its future and become mired in the mud?
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com.