Fruit often ends up rotting in the crisper drawer. Well, that's the wrong place to put it. Out of sight, out of mind. The kids all know where the junk-food shelf is. Make the fruit that easy to get to. Put a big huge bowl of fruit on the counter. - Tyler Florence
By Reed Anfinson
There is a reason L.L. Bean sends a catalog in the mail with a planned persistence. They recognize that if they stop sending magazines and just rely on emails or their website, you'll soon forget they are around.
Eddie Bauer, Cabelas, J. Crew, and other retailers would then dominate the market. L.L. Bean would fade from our awareness despite the numerous emails it sends. You may have good intentions of going back to that L.L. Bean email, but the press of the day's activities and the mounting emails in the inbox leave it forgotten.
L.L. Beans knows it must always keep their brand fresh in your memory. It knows you will page through their magazine and maybe see something you like, then go to their website to buy it. They know that the constant reminder of the magazine sitting on your coffee table, kitchen counter, or on the nightstand will prompt you to go to their website.
Print in the hands of your potential customers is a reminder that you want their business. Retailers know that out of sight is out of mind.
Emails arrive at a pace and volume that it is impossible to keep up with. Many, we set aside for a later look. But we all know what happens to the vast majority of emails we set aside—they are forgotten as the next batch demands attention. The old ones build up and are eventually deleted, unread.
Ads flash up on the Facebook pages and other social media, but you are engaged with friends, work, or looking for something more interesting. We make a mental note to get back to that ad we saw. Yet, the immediacy of current demands always leads us away, distracting us from what we saw just a few minutes ago.
Magazines can come in the mail today and sit there as a constant reminder to check out that shirt or sweater. It is there a week later, or even a month later.
Magazines for men's and women's clothing, hardware items, novelties, sporting goods, and other retail goods stack up because the retailers know print is invaluable to reaching customers. It sits there saying, “Look at me.”
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY AND COVERAGE
Out of sight out and out of mind also applies to our local, state, and federal governments with frightening implications.
The late David Carr, the New York Times' media writer, said: “The constancy of a daily paper...is a reminder to a city that someone is out there watching...You have to wonder whether it will still have the same impact when it doesn't land day after day on doorsteps all over the city.”
A recent study by the University of North Carolina found that America “has lost almost 1,800 newspapers since 2004 (https://bit.ly/2HWm12S), including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies.” The result is news deserts around the country where communities no longer know what their local leaders are doing with their tax dollars. They don't know if the city is looking after its citizens' health and welfare or ignoring problems with potentially deadly consequences.
Research has shown that when a community loses its newspaper, the cost of borrowing money goes up for taxpayers. Interest rates on bonds are set higher because there is no longer a watchdog to keep elected officials honest. With a higher chance of corruption and malfeasance occurring when no one is holding elected and appointed officials accountable, the risk of default or difficulty in repaying a loan rises.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson saw a real danger in the general population becoming disengaged from the knowledge required to keep their leaders accountable. “Cherish, therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves,” the nation's third president wrote.
When the government is out of sight and out of mind, it is likely in your pocket, restricting your rights and working against your interests.
When communities lose their newspapers, they also lose sight of understanding for one another's points of view. The news that community newspapers provide often isn't seen that as the polarizing political discourse that pervades the national and, to a degree, state news.
If we have controversial issues, they are not divided along Republican and Democratic lines. They involve issues critical to people within our communities about their children's education and the city, county, and hospital services. The topics are about the quality of life in the community.
When local residents lose their local newspaper, studies show their outlook becomes more polarized. They tend to vote rigidly along party lines.
All these points underscore the importance of print in people's lives. They underscore the need for local support for the newspaper. They highlight the importance of local governments supporting their community newspaper through their public advertising. They support the value print brings to advertisers by constantly reminding customers that they are open and waiting to serve their needs.
If you are not putting yourself out there in print, you are lost in the deluge of online information. You are competing for the attention of constantly distracted people and putting your information away to look at later—but they never get back to it. You are out of sight and out of mind. People are left with the “junk-food shelf” of information on the internet. Newspapers are that big bowl of fruit.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reed Anfinson is a community newspaper publisher in Minnesota.