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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bill To Change Legal Notices To Internet Is Premature

Legal Notices Should Be In Newspapers

Editorial
By James Jones
Editor-Publisher
Solomon's words for the wise

A bill in Harrisburg is before the legislature to change the requirements of government agencies, in regard to the publication of legal notices, from newspapers of general circulation to internet sites to be established by the different agencies of government.

While the publications of these legal notices in newspapers is expensive, it also carries safeguards that the majority of the population will have an opportunity to read them and thus know what is coming down in the various divisions of the government.

Internet newspapers like Solomon's words are growing across the country by leaps and bounds, and the large newspapers are having a tough time surviving. To take away the revenue from these ads would help to sound the death knell for many of these newspapers that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

I would compare this change to the rise of the microwave oven. I was selling appliances when the first microwave ovens came on the market. They had some really great features. Everyone should have bought one, but they were very difficult to sell back then. As time went on and people lost their fears of cooking by microwaves, they became more popular. In this modern day, to be without a microwave oven would be like camping in the woods. Everyone has to have one.

The same rings true for the internet. It's a great method to reach the general public. But if you don't know what content is out there, you are not likely to have many people finding the legal notices, let alone reading them.

I find new websites every week that have been on the net for a few years locally that I never realized existed. It has taken over two years of diligently bringing the news to north central Pennsylvania to have finally reached a large portion of area readers. But I still find people who don't know about Solomon's words.

The internet is a valuable tool. It's a baby that is growing swiftly. In time it will probably be difficult to find a newspaper that's printed on paper. But during this transition time, it's still vital to the public's interests to publish legal notices in the newspaper. Everyone doesn't have the internet, everyone doesn't have a computer, and many people still exist that don't know how to operate a computer to find what they are searching for.

I think the day will come when all of this legal advertising will appear on the internet, but this is not the time to make the change. I would suggest that legal notices could be placed on the internet, on the government's websites, and possibly on news websites like Solomon's words, in brief, with a link to the legal notice on the agency's site, AND in the locally circulated newspaper with a printed link to where it can be found on the internet.

As people catch up with technology and get used to where legal notices can be found, that is when changes could be made to newspaper postings. But that time is not now, and for the legislature to make abrupt changes in the legal advertising policy now, will leave a large portion of the public in the dark

12 comments :

joshhatcher said...

I hate to disagree with you on this, but I do...
Especially in this area, the internet has become THE source for news, and fewer and fewer people are purchasing newspapers.

I hate to suggest "putting the nail in the coffin" for the newspaper industry, but the truth is, we are in a digital age.

Anyone can access the internet, if not at home, then at the public library.

I think that it's time for the newspaper industry to innovate and find new revenue streams, and for local municipalities to start saving tax dollars wherever possible, including in the publishing of legal notices.

Anonymous said...

Josh, I hate to disagree with you because I believe in most cases you are a man of common sense, however there is a generation gap that you are not considering in your digitial age. Think of most of the elder population that relies heavily on the newspaper industry to get their news and information about public notices. Yeah, we can say that they could go to the public library and have access to the internet but I know too many elderly people that do not/ will not/ are not capable of understanding or learning how to use a computer.

I have to agree with Jim on this one.


Joe Gerhart

joshhatcher said...

I agree that there is a generation gap, but in my experience, it's only because people refuse to adapt and learn.

My grandmother, who is in that "older generation" uses the internet just fine. And up until a few years ago, had no computer experience whatsoever. She determined she was going to bridge the gap and stay in touch with family and friends via email, and she's done just that, and done it well.

I think WILL NOT would be the operative word in your assessment.

Anyone is capable of learning how to click a button and read a screen...
and at most public libraries, the librarians would be more than glad to help.
Aren't most of the public notices issues of sherriff's sales and projects going out to bid? how much of that is relevant to the "older" generation anyway?

I'm not asking in an arrogant way, though I apologize for any ignorance on my part.

Maybe a couple more years of Jim's "hybrid" approach would make the inevitable transition smoother.

Michael said...

This issue is very close to my heart as I am the Circulation Director of The Baltimore Sun. One big misconception is that no one is reading the newspaper and everyone gets news online. It simply isn't true. We still have over 300,000 papers delivered everyday. The problem is that the internet has given an alternative medium for advertisers. Subscription sales at major papers barely cover distribution costs and has never been a major revenue stream. More people visit baltimoresun.com than all of the tv stations in our market combined yet it's difficult to turn page views into dollars as I'm sure Jim can attest.

The internet may go down as one of the most destructive inventions of all time when all is said and done. No single invention has cost more people jobs and put more companies out of business yet has limited revenue opportunities. One great example in my industry is classified ads. 4 years ago we had 57 employees in classifieds and generated $15 mil in revenue per year. Craigslist went mainstream and now we have 5 employees and less than $500k in revenue. If you look at this scenario industry-wide Craigslist has eliminated over 5,000 jobs and Craigslist only employs 28 people. These examples are endless.

Sorry so long.

Anonymous said...

What about in Potter County where the Leader & Enterprise has jacked up theur prices for legal advertisements to take advantage of the townships and schools and boros. Our township paid as much for a legal ad in that paper as we pay a secretary to do all the township business. They can charge however much they want I guess.

Anonymous said...

This really doesnt matter to me. but I can tell you my Grandparents who read the paper every week, are not going to go out and buy a computer to do it on line. They like their paper, and it would just be way to hard for them to learn what they need to on the computer to read the news. so I agree with Jo. I just dont think it would be fair to them.

joshhatcher said...

I worked in the newspaper business for years, (and I still have my finger in it on occassion)

There are still people that read tha newspaper sure, but I think the attitude that the internet is "destructive" is a little silly.... the key is learning to bridge the gap between print and screen... and learning to innovate and use it constructively.

I think for the next twenty years, print editions may still be effective... but I don't think print newspapers will be profitable after two decades. I think that the key is to start innovating NOW, so that the inevitable death of print is the dawn of something new.

Mr Negative said...

Michael said"The internet may go down as one of the most destructive inventions of all time when all is said and done. No single invention has cost more people jobs and put more companies out of business yet has limited revenue opportunities."

Are you kidding me??? Have you ever heard of Google? Yahoo? Ask.com??? Facebook? How many newspapers are advertised on NASCAR cars? How many piles of newspapers are laying around peoples garages that need to be recycled? I agree with Josh...the newspapers are totally outdated......especially when you pick up the Potter Leader and the only thing that stands out are the mis-spellings and grammar errors.

joshhatcher said...

Well... I am not going to condemn any editorial staff.

grammar errors are easy to make, and even harder to catch if you can't afford to pay enough people to proofread.

When I worked at the Leader as a freelancer, the whole crew would proofread each others stories before it went to print. Sometimes an error would slip by three or four people before one would catch it.

I can only imagine that it gets harder with fewer people.

I do think that it's time to innovate and get "ahead of" the times for the industry.

But I am not going to belittle the editorial staff, because I know for a fact that they work hard to do the best they can with what they have to work with.

Anonymous said...

Jim, your thoughts and words on this issue were well put down. Whether read on-line, on paper, or even spoken, words give meaning to our lives. Why should any portion of our communication venues be abandoned? The more understanding we have on any subject the better off we are for it.

Anonymous said...

All that being said I do not like the idea of the Leader Enterprise hiking up their rates for these legal ads and taking advantage of the township and boros and schools and others because that is taking advantage of the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

I am 62 years old and enjoy my newspaper every day, but the writing is on the wall newspapers are going the way of the outside pay phone. newspapers are going out of business every day. The gentleman that works for the Baltimore Sun stated that they still sell 300,000 newspapers daily sounds like alot until you realize Baltimore has a population of approx. 750,000 people and the surrounding are has a total population of 2,000,000 or more business for the newspaper there doesn't sound so strong after all.