Monday, September 21, 2009

Ron Roenigk, News Addict, Ink Junkie

Ron Roenigk, publisher of Inside Publications, has written a guest column for Chicago News Bench, which we present below. In March of 2009, he acquired News-Star and Booster from Wednesday Journal (in Oak Park). Ron shares something with many bloggers - his love of news and information. He writes about that lifelong obsession and about the business he loves so much. Still Addicted to the 20th Century by Ron Roenigk I'm a news addict - I have been an ink junkie my whole life. Frankly... I'm not looking to clean myself up either. I don't really care where I find the news... I just want as much as I can get, I'm hooked.. I read a lot and am very thankful for the band of citizen journalists out there who blog away digging up good solid local news content that they then make available to people like me for free on their sites. I am a true believer in the free press and citizen journalism. I have been doing that as a career my whole professional life. Gang - being in the media is one of the last vestiges of free enterprise out there. No license needed, no OSHA visits or bribes to city officials. Just pay your payroll taxes to the IRS and everyone else just leaves you alone. What a country! Personally I have never felt threatened by news web sites and feel that we are all part of the same community and can easily coexist. I give my news away for free too! My staff and I visit dozens of local web and blog sites each and every week as we do our own news gathering rounds. It is an integral part of our mission to see what is bubbling up of a local nature on the Internet and the dearth of information, feedback and comments helps us to establish our own goals for coverage. I won't play favorites here by naming names but trust that if you're blogging about something on Chicago's North Side then I or somebody else on my staff has read your work at one time or another - indeed there are several sites I visit just about every day. There is one major difference though between many of these news sites and what we do. We are primarily a print news source. I know, I know - 20th Century technology... so call me a dinosaur if you want... but my friends, that's where we make our money. Over 90% of our revenue comes from print advertising. So let me be clear: we're a business first and newspaper second. We must make money or we don't exist. It has been my own experience that generating advertising revenue on news sites on the Internet is not really working. So for now I must focus most of my effort making my print edition profitable... and it is, thank you! It wasn't in 2008 but since our acquisition of the Booster and News Star newspapers from Wednesday's Journal last March it is now and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the good folks at Wednesday Journal for making that happen. Don't take this wrong but I have often wondered why supposedly smart newspaper people today put so much effort and attention into their web presence to the detriment of their print products when their own numbers show that the revenue they generate from print advertising grossly outperforms what they're making online? I must be dumb because I choose to focus on what is actually generating revenue for me over betting my house that I will somehow figure out a way to make money on our newspaper web site? In that scenario I don't mind being the last one in the pool... when those smart guys figure out how to make real money with an online news site I'll jump back in with both feet. Thankfully, though, most of the citizen journalists out there blogging away are doing it for their own passion and self-gratification. It's very cool seeing your work in print and available to the world online via the Internet. No they clearly do not do it for the money or there would be a lot less content on the Internet. So a hearty three cheers for you... your selfless dedication and gumption has made the world a better place.