June 22, 2010
A midweek paper for Searchlight?

Tue, Jun 22, 2010

The history of midweek newspapers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not a very encouraging one. Over the years, these publications have come on stream, promising much, but after a time, they quietly fade away.{{more}}

Carlos Maloney’s Cross Country newspaper is perhaps the most successful local midweek newspaper to date, but after three or four years, a relatively long period in comparison with the others, that too went under.

Vincentians are a people of habit. We go into Kingstown on Fridays to do our shopping, banking, and to buy newspapers. It is ingrained in our psyche that Friday is newspaper day, and this has made selling newspapers on any other day a challenge to local publishers.

In addition to our local peculiarities which militate against expansion, there is also the fact that some large newspapers in the United States, the United Kingdom and around the region, have recently cut back or even closed down completely.

Why then does Searchlight think it can buck the trend, given what seems to be happening locally and internationally?

The obituary of the newspaper may have been written prematurely. Several studies have been done on the newspaper industry since the closures in 2008 and 2009 and many interesting facts have emerged.

Firstly, the newspapers which were affected by the closures were almost, without exception, the larger daily newspapers with a strong international focus. It has been found that smaller community newspapers with strong local news content were not in crisis. Searchlight, as do the other major local newspapers, has an almost 100% local news content.

Nancy Lane, President of Suburban Newspapers of America, in the 2008 report card said, “Certainly, they (local and community newspapers) are affected by the economic downturn just like every other industry, but they have a bright and profitable future. No other medium is able to offer hyper-local news and information, down to neighborhood levels. Local news is extremely valued and as a result, advertisers are able to reach an engaged consumer.”

Studies have also shown that international news is available from many different sources, and in many cases, free on the Internet. Producing quality news is not cheap and that is why the large daily newspapers, with hundreds of employees suffered so badly.

The problem wasn’t so much that fewer people were interested in reading news in hard copy, but it was available for free on the Internet, so why pay for it? This realization caused billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch to announce the introduction of charges for access to his news websites including the Times, the Sun and the News of the World, by this summer.

In addition to this, the reports of newspaper closures around the world were a bit exaggerated. If we take the United Kingdom for example, between January 2008 and the present time, 53 newspapers closed, whereas 11 were launched, giving a net loss of 42 titles, less than 4% of the total number of newspapers in the United Kingdom.

As for Searchlight’s venture into the midweek market, we have chosen Tuesday, not Wednesday for our midweek, to allow for more time between publications. By publishing twice a week, we are answering the call of our readers for more timely news; of our letter writers for more space for their opinons; and of our advertisers for more options. Now that we have answered your call, our success will depend on your support, which we are keenly aware depends on the quality of our publications and the effectiveness of our distribution system.

When the Founders of this media house set up shop fifteen years ago, it was not their intention to limit the scope of their business to a once a week newspaper, or for that matter, to the print medium. It has taken us fifteen years to develop the institutional capacity to take the next step, but with God’s grace here we are.

None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of our readers, advertisers and vendors, who have stuck with us despite the fiercely competitive environment in which we exist. For this we are sincerely thankful and promise to continue to uphold the standards of ethical journalism which you have come to expect from us.