Historically, catastrophic things happen-- war, natural disasters, technology, and the computer age.
The 70's were extravagant times. The Vietnam war ended, the economy was good, and frivolous spending was normal. Divorce rates increased. Drugs were the cocktail of choice. Polyester leisure suits and bell bottoms were in fashion. The Metropolitan newspaper industry was huge! Advertising agencies, and big PR firms were raking it in. Advertising was BIG money. People were living the high life.
High gas prices of the 70's began a new car trend for the 80's. The big boat gas burners slimmed down, and so began the increase and popularity of import autos. The 80's became the "me" generation. "DINK" was the new buzz word-- double income, no kids. BMWs were in every garage, Ralph Lauren replaced the polyester leisure suits for men and women. The mall was where we spent our shopping dollars, neglecting our small town main streets. Wal-Mart was the big corporate monster destroying small local business. We became work-aholics, conformed. Weeklies and Shoppers, Val Pack and other niche publications began to give metro newspapers a run for their money.
The 90's were ushered in with the Gulf War. SCUD missiles and recession were the topic of conversation. People became uncertain of their future, worried. They became less concerned about themselves and the material things that were once so important in the 80's. They longed for the "good old days" with the white picket fence, family, religion, and back to basics attitude. Community weekly newspapers were it. They offered the whole holistic package with good news and the "tribalism" we so desperately needed during the gulf war.
Shopping main street and locally became trendy again.
The late 90's into the new millennium gave us a new beginning, and a new war. Life seemed relatively normal again despite the war and our new president. The bigger the SUV the better. Real estate was on the upswing. Consumer trust was back. We wanted it all again. It was a Bull market. Metro newspapers continued to slide into oblivion as the computer technology provided us with instantaneous world and regional/national news. We've seen Craig's List, eBay and other internet sites take a hit on classifieds. Community weeklies are still strong, as they still provide the only source for hyper-local news-- they publish what matters to readers young and old.
From 2006 on, we've seen our high housing market go south, banks and financial institutions fail, and the stock market become the worst since the depression. The war in Iraq continues to drain us financially and emotionally. We've seen an increase of global awareness and concern for the planet. We're experiencing an economic reconstruction. Businesses must re-think what they do and how they do it. The new buzz word... "change."
Large businesses had been conditioned over the years to believe bigger is better, utilizing the metro newspapers for their print advertising vehicle to cover vast areas and population. This is no longer a viable option with the downward spiral of large metro newspapers. The shift is toward the community newspapers, which often provide additional zone opportunities for more circulation with strong readership.
We've already witnessed a huge transportation change. People are riding bikes, scooters, and alternative hybrid autos. Family, community, religion, schools and civic organizations are important during these uncertain times. We feel the need to unite and do what we can as a unit, and all fitting within the community newspaper feel good spirit.
Community newspapers should provide news briefs and important tidbits. They must embrace the concept of concise, and more news, business briefs, neighborhood and civic, club and church, and school news. These are all extremely important.
They should also provide some feel-good features. We don't want bad news all the time. They should embrace the uniqueness of their communities and the people who live there. There are so many great stories to share.
Businesses who recognize this marketing opportunity and embrace the reach and readership their community newspapers offer will find an easier path to riding out the economic turbulence and may even find themselves prospering during tough times.