What is the future of journalism?
As with most questions, the answer you get depends upon whom you ask. And the truth is, nobody really knows.
People do have ideas. As I hope you have discovered by now, we here at Weld for Birmingham have a few of our own. In fact, we hold strongly to our assessment of the changing world of journalism and media — what it will take not only to survive, but also to be a leader of that change, and to thrive over the long term as a smart, innovative, forward-looking media company.
So do the folks at The Tuscaloosa News. Like Weld, the News and its parent company, Florida-based Halifax Media Group, believe in their business model. Like us, they are dedicated to providing quality journalism that meets the news and informational needs of their readership. And like us, they treat the betterment of the community they serve as an integral part of their mission.
Given these similarities, coupled with the community need created by the demise of our local daily newspaper in Birmingham, a partnership between The Tuscaloosa News and Weld is a natural fit. It is my honor and pleasure to announce here that our two companies have entered into such a partnership, effective this week.
What does this mean for Weld? Most immediately, it means that our weekly newspaper is going to be more accessible to more people. Very simply, if you live in the Birmingham area and you subscribe to daily home delivery of The Tuscaloosa News, you also will receive home delivery of Weld each Wednesday.
Obviously, this is very exciting news for us, giving Weld the opportunity to extend our brand in print and generate additional traffic for our website and blogging network. In turn, we’ll be promoting and marketing The Tuscaloosa News as it moves strategically to provide a daily newspaper for Birmingham.
In addition to these mutual promotional and marketing efforts related to our respective print products, Weld and The Tuscaloosa News will be linked online via RSS feed. In other words, you’ll be able to link directly to tuscaloosanews.com from this site, and vice versa.
Beyond the inclusion of Weld in its Wednesday home delivery, we also will be helping The News develop Birmingham-specific content. And our two companies will co-sponsor events and activities that enhance the visibility of our partnership and perpetuate the community-oriented mission we share.
Not coincidentally, we also hope that our partnership will help build stronger connections between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, two outstanding communities that could find mutual benefit in pursuing shared economic objectives. If we’re really thinking about the future, then we need to be thinking about ways to work together on a regional basis, ways to make the whole of the I-59 corridor and the communities that anchor it stronger than the sum of its parts. This partnership will position Weld and The Tuscaloosa News, individually and in collaboration, to play a lead role in those conversations.
As it relates to the very compelling question posed at the outset, this new partnership expresses a core conviction that, among other things, the future of journalism is collaborative. Partnerships between news organizations and other media outlets, across a variety of platforms — print, Internet, television, radio — are perhaps the only way to ensure that no gaps are left in the evolving media landscape, that people are getting the news and information they need, in a manner that is timely and convenient for them. The idea that collaboration increases accessibility is at the heart of all of the strategic partnerships Weld has formed to date, from CBS 42 to Birmingham Mountain Radio to Alabama Public Television.
At bottom, of course, partnerships have to make sense from a business perspective. Another outgrowth of changes in the ways that news and information is gathered, presented and consumed is that new media — along with the evolution of traditional media — is creating new opportunities for companies with the creativity, flexibility and foresight to strategically align their business and editorial operations. Particularly for companies looking to chart multimedia territory in innovative ways, it is critical to integrate the concepts of providing service to readers and building value into advertiser relationships that go far beyond the appearance of an ad in print or online.
This is yet another notion that underpins our partnership with The Tuscaloosa News. Both companies place a high premium on the idea of being the go-to source for readers and advertisers, leveraging the quality and credibility of our print and online products to forge a complete community connection that strengthens our respective business operations and enhances the ability to contribute to the growth and prosperity of the community at large.
A final reason that we are so excited about both immediate and potential opportunities that will arise from this partnership is the simple fact that The Tuscaloosa News shares our belief in the importance of print. Let others carry the “Print is dead” banner and act accordingly, to their own detriment and that of Birmingham. We know better, that print remains the preferred medium for large numbers of people, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Print is not dead, it is changing — and it will continue to be viable for those companies who embrace the change and understand how to take advantage of it.
As we entered into the discussions that culminated in the announcement of our partnership with Tuscaloosa, I performed some due diligence that led me to the website of Halifax Media Group, which owns 33 newspapers and affiliated websites in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina. Featured prominently on the Halifax site is a quote from CEO Michael Redding that warmed my heart.
“We believe in the future of newspapers, both print and online,” Redding says. “We have to be great at both.”
Maybe it’s just me. But this seems like the beginning of a beautiful partnership.