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Are We Dead Yet?

I read occasionally how the newspaper is dead, gone the way of the Dodo bird, full-service gas stations, 8-track tapes, Betamax and landline telephones. Of course, I read all this on the internet.

I’ve got a unique view on this as I’ve worked up-close and personal in newspapers and online. I started my career for a daily newspaper and helped start-up what was then a successful online news and sports website.

So, is the newspaper dead and King Internet ready to take over?

Not so fast.

Online news and sports are here to stay, there’s no denying that. But for an online space to survive and even thrive it must have what newspapers must have — advertising. And the thing is, it’s really hard to verify for an advertiser how many people are really seeing those ads. If a site has 10,000 unique hits per month, how do you verify that those hits are truly “unique” and not repetitious. Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s almost impossible to say with certainty how many are truly “unique.” But with a newspaper you have a definitive number of paper sales and subscribers, so advertisers can at least be assured that they are getting into households and businesses. The point being, an online site may be free to the viewer but it has to make money somehow and that is not always an easy thing to do. And if that site isn’t making money then it’s usually whittled down to surviving as a one-man (or woman) operation and you had better make sure you can trust that one man, or woman in any case.

I am often pleasantly surprised at the loyalty of readers to paper and ink. Recently, during a spirited public debate over a new development in Melissa, many residents, some with copies of The Anna-Melissa Tribune in their hands, expressed their frustration to members of the city council that the Trib was not the city’s paper of record. It meant a lot to me as editor of that paper that the citizenry trust us enough — and read us enough — to want us in that role.

In another great instance of reader loyalty, It came to my attention that one reader in Sherman likes our Van Alstyne Leader so much that she got tired of waiting the week it took for her post office to get it to her and decided to take matters into her own hands. This reader leased a mailbox at the Howe post office so that she could get her paper the next day with no wait.

It’s that loyalty that will make sure you continue to get these papers, and my staff and I will have jobs for years to come. I make no pretense that the internet is not a great thing. I constantly get national news and sports online, but if you want the best in local then we’re going to strive to survive and provide just that.

Rodney Williams is the managing editor for The Anna-Melissa Tribune and the Van Alstyne Leader. He can be contacted at news@amtrib.com or rwilliams@vanalstyneleader.com.