Newspapers face online niche competition for classified ad dollars, a newspaper industry watcher said Friday in Lawrence.
Go online. Defend your classified sections. And try to appeal to readers in the 18-to-24 age bracket.
Those were some tips given to Kansas newspaper publishers Friday about how they can survive competition with major online services in the next few years.
"It's time for thinking out of the box," said Kathleen Criner, a columnist for Editor & Publisher, a national journalism trade magazine.
Criner was Friday's luncheon speaker at the 105th Kansas Press Assn. convention, which was held at the Lawrence Holidome, 200 McDonald Dr.
"It's important that newspapers look at themselves in different ways," said Criner, whose column "Leading Edge," keeps abreast of trends in the industry.
A battle is developing for local markets between newspapers and online services, such as America On Line, Microsoft and AT&T, she said.
"Ultimately, online competition could blind side newspapers just like direct mail did in the 1980s," she said.
Major online services are aiming at local classified sections by going after niches, she said. An industry study has shown that by the year 2000, 40 percent of real estate, 30 percent of help wanted and 20 percent of automotive classified ads could be lost.
Criner said newspapers could protect their interests by going online themselves, putting their own classified sections online and focusing on breaking news.
"Niche your newspaper," she said.
She encouraged newspapers to seek out readers in the 18-24 category.
After her speech, some of the conference participants agreed with her warnings.
"It's an issue that is real," said Daylyn Patterson, an Internet sales representative for the Hays Daily News. "You have to develop a way to integrate the online media with the print media and make people feel they need both."
Les Anderson, KPA president and publisher of the Ark Valley News, a 2,100-circulation weekly based in Valley Center, agreed newspapers needed to get on the Internet.
"I think if you don't, you're probably going to pay for it," Anderson said.
However, Anderson and Karl Gaston, publisher for the Ellsworth Reporter, a 3,000-circulation weekly, both said the warnings mainly were aimed at larger, metropolitan newspapers.
"Who's going to put in the stuff that happens at the Ellsworth High School, other than us," Gaston said.
Bruce Buchanan, editor and publisher of The Hutchinson News, said if newspapers were replaced by online news services, "it's a long way off."
Buchanan said the Internet was still confusing for many people to get information and to make sure the information is reliable.
And there's the practicality aspect.
"You can't carry it with you," he said.