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OPINION

The Newspaper Cemetery

Despite their denials, newspapers all over the world are simply dying.

The gravity of the problem is not the result of competition from TV or the Internet. Rather, it’s due to the fact that people all over the world prefer moving pictures in the palms of their hands over deciphering or reading between the lines of nicely arranged words spread out on a sheet of paper.

The Children of the Millennium

Historians will regard our modern era as volatile, innovative and dynamic. Yet paleontologists would point out that we have hardly evolved at all during the last millennium. There go all the IQ tests. We are still the same Homo sapiens — walking erect but still scared of the dark, bound by the same chains of emotion and fears.

Like babes in the woods, we tread this little planet very cautiously. As children of this new millennium, we now have new toys to play with and some new buttons to push, but our minds stay trapped in ancient behavior patterns, responding to external stimuli with great trepidation.

The human mind naturally gravitates towards the easy flow of colorful moving pictures; it becomes a receptacle. The act of reading words, on the other hand, forces the cerebrum to create imaginary moving pictures with its own logic and exercise its own craft. After a while, a kind of mental numbness takes over, and the mind tries to go to sleep. It’s like having out-of-body experiences while watching very late night TV.

Print Society to Cybersociety

If you are reading the newspaper today, then it is obviously yesterday’s news. The cumbersome process of cutting forests down and turning trees into something to print on and distribute takes many thousands of critical steps. Though perfected over a century, this system is still too slow to feed the voracious appetites of the info-hungry creatures that walk the planet now.

The sudden explosion of technology in the last few seconds on the clock of human evolution may appear to make us look sophisticated compared to what we looked like a few minutes ago, but we are certainly still trapped where we were hours ago. Where are you when we need you, Darwin?

Sound Bite Culture

Short and crisp doses of sound bites traveling around the world have made us a very well-informed and highly educated population — in terms of sound bites only. That’s it. Deep and rich discussions of very complex issues are eliminated by short headlines, nicely arranged to fit cute small screens, as words are slashed and abbreviated to comply with this new lingo.

Today, text-messaging holds the place in the universe that was occupied by the once-powerful print media of the last century. All things are compressed into sound bites. Triviality has taken over, erasing opportunities for discussion and in-depth analysis.

Today’s youths are conversant on about 100 issues, as long as no detailed explanations are required. This cursory knowledge further incubates fear and a lack of confidence that makes gullible targets for the bombardment of any strong, highly repetitious message.

The Orwellian model is pass. We’re more like the Digi sapiens, preparing en masse for our brains to shrink to the size of our fancy PDAs. Miniaturization anyone?

The Surgery Table

Denials about the state of the print medium will not cure the main problem.

Consider the much earlier resistance of media barons who wanted absolutely nothing to do with Web sites displaying their newspaper content, which has already proven very wrong.

Here are three surgical procedures that might help. Oxygen please.

Cyberbrand for Cybersociety

Most newspaper publishers are convinced that by simply having a Web site with a complicated layout and complex graphics, they are deeply immersed into e-commerce. They also believe that some flashy, jumpy Web site with a weird looking format and a silly, foot-long, twisted URL is a hip cyberbranding strategy in action.

It’s really time to go back to school. The books that teach cyberbranding are not published yet. An in-depth discovery of real cyberbranding and the complex cybersociety is a prerequisite.

Reposition for Repositioned Mind Share

Most formats are just copies of each other: The same news and the same formats are repeated to death until the minds shut off.

Reformat the content and build a brand based on today’s realities, incorporating the pioneering old print society thinking. Retrain the organization toward a mega cultural change. Mass merchandising concepts are fading to one-to-one, making advertising a very selective targeting process.

Reclamation of the Truth

Most newspapers have desperately tried to copy or simulate new media and have failed — big time. The fake sensationalizing of breaking news, twisting truth in an attempt to get some attention, or acting hip and childish to attract the youth demographic must be replaced by a solid, confident approach.

The news is not a movie, and a movie is not the news. Chasing and accurately delivering the truth would be a good start.

100 Percent Global Ownership

Most newspapers that are named after towns or that have generic names like “Ledger,” “Tribune,” “Journal” or “Daily” are now lost in the Web-jungle among thousands of similar names all over the world.

Fewer than 1 percent of newsprint names are unique or worthy of global branding, while the rest are expensive luggage and going nowhere.

Discover the Five Star Standard of Global Name Identities and also what makes absolute 100 percent ownership of a brand to provide an umbrella to park your future underneath.

Winners and Losers

There are some very fine survivors of this fierce transition. The biggest pain came from the print media’s lingering state of denial. Now that the cat is out of the bag and the demise of print is an open subject, the winners are the surgeons at the marketing strategy meetings and the editorial teams that are embracing the revolution as an opportunity to completely reinvent themselves.

The losers are the public — as they have replaced communication through articulate printed words and elegant concepts with flashy, but watered-down, moving pictures.

The emerging and faraway lands are still very dependent on newspapers, but the explosion of mobile technologies spread faster than the sluggish delivery of newspapers.

In reality, newspapers will always be a part of our lives — but they will certainly not be the drivers of our morning agenda. More likely, they will become a weekly or monthly recap, carrying in-depth analyses of serious matters, with the day’s news limited to highlights in sound-bite format.

There are new frontiers and new challenges to be embraced by new players. Let’s read more about them in the papers. First, though, the Breaking News on TV: The Democrat’s poodle bites the Republican’s hound, so both owners jump in and bite each other. … Let’s watch the live footage and join the panel discussion.


Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80s and also foundedABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago. Currently, he is on a lecture tour in Asia and can be reached at[email protected].


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