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It’s sometimes good to be a little fish in a large ocean

I read with interest the other day a story about recent financial results posted by the New York Times Company. Owner of The New York Times, the multi-media company also owns the Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, and several television stations and regional daily newspapers, including newspapers in Gadsden and Tuscaloosa. It recently sold another Alabama newspaper, the Times-Daily, to a privately held media company in Decatur.

Many national media analysts consider the NYT to be the pulse of the newspaper industry. And those analysts are espousing about the certain death of the industry after the “Gray Lady” reported less than stellar earnings, posting an operating loss of $75.4 million in the most recent quarter.

The loss was helped along by a 27 percent decline in advertising revenue the company attributed to the 16-month long recession the county is experiencing. The loss also far exceeded the company’s operating performance during the same period last year.

The national media, especially the television and magazine media, has gone to great lengths to publicize how traditional print media seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. It doesn’t take a Harvard trained economist to understand their motivation in doing so.

Unfortunately, because our main product is also printed in ink on paper, we are often lumped in the same category with companies such as NYT, Gannett, and other large newspaper corporations. It’s like saying a Shark is the same as a Minnow. Yes, they’re both fish, but they have very, very obvious differences.

Large media companies for years have dealt mostly in what I’ll call “commoditized” information. This type of information, such as national and international news, and in certain instances, state news, can be read through a multitude of sources. A quick search of the words “CIA interrogations,” which was one of nyt.com’s lead stories recently yielded 1.4 million responses.

Unlike national media, community news media, the business The Selma Times-Journal is in, gives targeted, very specific information about what is happening in Selma and Dallas County. No other media outlet is equipped to provide what we do to those we serve.

A search of “Alabama Strategic Alliance for Health,” which we recently published a story about, produced four responses, with two of them being links to Selma Times-Journal stories. The other two links were to medical journals.

The point is no other media outlet covered this topic, which is of vital importance to the health and welfare of many in our county. But we did, and we provided information about its importance to this area.

We also provide very specific information about the business community by way of localized advertising, giving sellers the best vehicle in this area to get their message to buyers.

But there is one way we are indeed like the NYT Company and that is we are both businesses that depend on a stable, vibrant economy to grow. And when the businesses we serve suffer from the lack of commerce due to arguably one of the worst recessions in modern time, we feel their pain. But does that mean the future of our business is bleak? No. It means that those who are responsible for running the business have to find ways to compensate for the economic downturn and make tough decisions that position the company to match current business conditions. And when the economy does turn, as it always does, those that have made the difficult decisions will be better positioned to ride the wave upward.

The NYT Company is doing that, just as we are, but they’re also trying to sell widgets to a populace that can buy a widget on any street corner. In the meantime, we’ll continue to hold our niche as the area’s most reliable, in-depth news source providing readers information on issues that really affect our readership.

Dennis Palmer is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal and selmatimesjournal.com. He can be reached at 410-1712 or by email: dennis.palmer@selmatimesjournal.com.