Buffett’s words tout newspapers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 10, 2013

Naysayers, pessimists and Monday morning quarterbacks will tell you that newspapers are in the final stages of their death throes, unable to overcome what critics see as the terminal illness that is the Digital Age.

But most of those pundits don’t understand the industry or what makes newspapers succeed or fail. And that’s OK. Even some of the smartest business leaders in the world had misconceptions.

Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha” who is widely regarded as an innovative businessman who rarely makes missteps when it comes to making money, was once one of those people, even saying that he wouldn’t buy newspapers “at any price.”

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To say Buffett has changed his position is an understatement. He bought more than 60 newspapers last year and will likely keep buying them up this year.

Highlighted in a recent USA Today column by Rem Rieder, Buffet offered some insightful comments about the future of newspapers in his message to stockholders of his company:

“News, to put it simply, is what people don’t know that they want to know. And people will seek their news — what’s important to them — from whatever sources provide the best combination of immediacy, ease of access, reliability, comprehensiveness and low cost.

“Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s going on in your town — whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football — there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.

“… papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly bound communities and having a sensible Internet strategy will remain viable for a long time. We do not believe that success will come from cutting either the news content or frequency of publication. Indeed, skimpy news coverage will almost certainly lead to skimpy readership. And the less-than-daily publication that is now being tried in some large towns or cities — while it may improve profits in the short term — seems certain to diminish the papers’ relevance over time. Our goal is to keep our papers loaded with content of interest to our readers and to be paid appropriately by those who find us useful, whether the product they view is in their hands or on the Internet.”

Buffett’s comments basically mirror The Tribune’s vision of a community newspaper and explains why we focus so much on local news instead of national or international content.

The Tribune wants to be about you, the community. People can access world news nearly anywhere, often more comprehensively than we could ever offer it.

But, the best place to get news about Lawrence County is right here in The Tribune and its other offerings. We plan to keep it that way.