Last week they simply buried the whole thought that the dearly departed might matter to the paper’s readers, trading the space for large display ads. The classified ad department told me that the average obituary takes up 36 lines at a cost of $505. They do have a handy tool that allows you to write your loved one’s story, paste the text into a template and find out what it will cost … if you don’t die from the sticker shock yourself.
I’m an old news hound. I made my living as a journalist for a long time. I wrote a lot of obits in my day. And I’ve read them every day of my life ever since … not out of morbid curiosity, but because if a friend has passed, I want to know it. My bet is that I’m not unlike a lot of people … especially when they reach their 60s and 70s and going to funerals becomes a more routine part of life.
A quick check at OrlandoSentinel.com/opinion/letters doesn’t seem to show it, but the print edition has had at least a couple of passionate letters to the editor on this subject, including this:
I understand it costs a lot to run a newspaper. It also costs to lose subscribers … whether it is due to their death or the disgust of families who dump their subscriptions … offended by decisions like this that choke every last dime out of the readers that real advertisers are trying to reach.
In our business, many things have become passé, including oversized check presentations, groundbreaking ceremonies with dignitaries lined up in hard hats and armed with shovels … and most certainly, ribbon cuttings.
But wait … there’s more … more life for old standby photo opportunities … see proof below in the clip from OrlandoSentinel.com:
In their “Latest Video” section, a ribbon cutting was the online headline for a story that all public relations people know is hard to illustrate. Technology stories are almost always static and provide little that’s visual. But the fact that the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) opened a new solar energy farm and plans to build more of this renewable energy production is news.
Many in our business would have resisted the ribbon-cutting visual. Kudos to the OUC team for realizing that it is far more about the story on the other side of the ribbon.
The timely reporting of events has always been at the heart of the news business, and yet more and more often I’m seeing the word “recently” – a word that was verboten in my days as a journalism student – creep into news stories. In fact, I counted three in the last week where it was clear the story had been missed … one by as much as a week.
Not so long ago I’d have written a blog post about lazy reporting, but the more you look at this the more it becomes clear it is a matter of total change of focus for newspapers. The transition to “digital first” is happening more and more every day … and resources are being deployed for an era of a different type of reporting.
Our Orlando Sentinel provided great examples this week in its Business Monday section where we were treated in print to several stories you’d already have seen if you were subscribing to their new Growth Spotter – a subscription email product focusing strictly on business stories.
You can subscribe only to the Sentinel’s Web-based product for one fee and they throw Growth Spotter and a lot of newsletters in for “free,” or if you get the good old newspaper in your driveway, you get all the digital products as part of the deal. But you really have to wonder how long the broadsheet will be around. Perhaps one day they’ll give you the paper if you subscribe to the digital product.
In the end, people don’t buy newspapers – or click open their news websites – for the advertising. They are a collateral advantage of pursuing information and knowledge. People crave to know what is going on … right away, not recently.
When word flashed up on OrlandoSentinel.com that the dean of Orlando broadcast news had died, it was one of those “oh … no” moments. Ben Aycrigg should be a role model for anyone who seeks entrance to your living room at 6 and 11 p.m.
He was kind to everyone he met. He was truly interested in listening to people. And it paid off because people wanted to give him their news … and they trusted him to treat it with respect.
It came as no surprise that when Googling for an image of Ben, the results included one of Walter Cronkite. They were easily mistaken for each other, not by looks but because they were such quality journalists.
Tape of Ben’s newscasts would make a great prerequisite for a degree in broadcast journalism … or journalism for any medium, for that matter.
Not sure whether I loved this or hated it, but I have to admit this JetBlue ad layout (snipped from the Orlando Sentinel’s online edition) stopped me in my tracks this morning. I can’t remember ever seeing a newspaper rate card that offered to let me carve a hole in the middle of editorial space.
There’s no doubt it is eye-catching. But when I went to clip it for this post, I couldn’t remember who the advertiser was … just that it made reading my newspaper this morning difficult.