It’s a typical year for your organization or business. Another campaign. Another event. Another big sale. You call your local newspaper ad rep. And you place an advertisement. You’ve been doing it this way for years. It’s the only way you reach your audience.

Here’s where everything will go splat. One day, in the not-too-distant future, your local newspaper makes a blockbuster announcement. It’s going to drastically cut or eliminate its paper edition in favour of a web-only digital edition.

Now, how will you reach your audience? Nope, saying you’ll just move your advertising to the newspaper’s digital-only edition won’t necessarily be the answer. There are no guarantees your audience will be loyal to the newspaper and migrate to the digital-only edition.

Suddenly, you’re left scrambling to reach your audience. Actually, you’re in dire straits. That’s because for the past several years you have resisted incorporating other mediums, like social media, into your promotional and advertising mix.

Organizations and businesses in small to medium markets will be most vulnerable when local newspapers choose to go all-digital. That’s because in these markets, organizations and businesses tend to be more narrowly focused. They stick to what has worked for years: when you need to tell the public something, you simply place an ad in a ‘paper’ newspaper.

Is your organization or business in danger of following victim to the day when newspapers stop their print editions? The answer is yes if you are not actively doing any of the following:

  • Using social media to build large followings and interact with followers to build relationships that lead to brand loyalty
  • Using opt-in email lists of your customers to send regular e-newsletters
  • Using Facebook as an advertising tool (a highly cost-effective approach)
  • Developing a customer database for the purpose of direct mail campaigns
  • Using a strong, modern website with solid SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Using tools like podcasts and video to tell your own news

Don’t think your local newspaper could ever make such a drastic transformation to cut its paper edition? Think again. Montreal’s La Presse newspaper, a giant among French language newspapers, plans to drastically slash the number of paper editions it prints within 3 to 5 years. Instead the company will focus on going digital. Subscribers paying for a three-year subscription will receive a tablet or other portable device to read La Presse.

It’s the first major announcement by a major Canadian newspaper to focus on digital. More will follow (US newspapers are much further ahead on the all-digital move; the Seattle Intelligencer stopped its paper edition several years ago and is now only a digital edition). In Canada, Toronto Life magazine recently pegged The National Post at 1:3 odds of going all-digital.

But you would be misguided to think this is only an issue for the big national or urban daily or weekly newspapers.

You can expect newspapers in small to medium markets to begin shifting to digital-only much sooner than expected. It’s the only way giant parent companies can drastically cut operating costs, boost profits for shareholders, create virtual offices rather than bricks and mortar, and truly become multimedia companies that win over audiences of the future.

The days of a paper newspaper in every community are fading.

That’s more reason than ever to start diversifying how you reach your audience. A well balanced approach now, will leave you better able to cope with any drastic decisions made by the medium you may be relying on too much: traditional print newspapers.