Wyatt Emmerich: Newspapers stand out in a crowd of ever-increasing electronic clutter

February 27, 2014 11:09:29 AM



I am starting to suffer from social media overload. 


Admittedly, I am a gizmo geek. But the proliferation of multiple social media platforms is becoming hard for even a geek to handle. 


After reading somewhere that five percent of Americans use Twitter as a main source for news, I figured I needed to understand the medium. After all, I am in the news business. 


Plus Twitter just raised $24 billion by going public, despite it is losing two dollars for every one dollar in revenue. 


I briefly tried Twitter a few years ago, so I called up my old account only to find out it had been spammed and I had been sending my six Twitter followers hot tips on losing weight with a special milkshake. 


The Twitter interface has gotten fancier now, with better Web and smart phone applications. Somewhere in the process of downloading the new app, I checked the wrong box and all 5,000 of my e-mail contacts got a personal invitation from me to join Twitter. My apologies. I was surprised at how many people took the invite seriously and joined. 


The Northside Sun has been sending out Facebook and Twitter updates for years now, but I have not done this personally. I now have 108 followers, slightly behind the world Twitter leader Katy Perry who has 50 million. 


The problem with getting on Twitter is coming up with something relevant to tweet. At first, I thought this would be no problem, but in practice my life is more boring than I had hoped. I have summoned up all of two tweets in two weeks. 


It's been hard enough to remember to post a few family photos every year on Facebook. At least once a year, I post my best photos of the year. If all my family photos get deleted, I will at least have some photos saved in cyberspace. 


I still argue that Facebook's sweet spot is keeping vaguely in touch with old friends. 


My children abandoned Facebook years ago for Instagram. They wouldn't be caught dead on Facebook once the parents took to it. Now SnapChat is replacing Instagram. 


There are just too many of these things to keep up with: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Tagged and on and on. Ask.fm has 34 million users. I'd never even heard of it until I did a Google search of top social media platforms. 


Adding to the confusion are all the different platforms I use: computer at the office, iPad at home, Android smart phone, laptop, Kindle.  


This past week the WhatsApp texting company was purchased by Facebook for $19 billion. The app allows you to text over Wi-Fi, saving cell phone charges. It has 500 million users. The company is only 4 years old. 


Far be it for me to figure out how a company with 50 employees can be worth $19 billion, but I sure wish I had bought Amazon, Google and Apple a dozen years ago. 


The big winner in this deal is Sequoia Capital, which funded the WhatsApp startup. They walked away with billions. 


That's the problem with these social media companies. There are so many new competitors funded by so much venture capital money. Facebook has to continually buy out any newcomers at huge prices. It will be interesting to see how this game plays out. 


Meanwhile, the average consumer is getting flooded with invitations to join this social network or that social network. The battle for the desktop and smart phone is raging, causing buggy software and confusion. Add in viruses, spam, malware and it's easy to throw your hands up. Not to mention your every move in cyberspace is now accessible by thousands of companies the names of which you don't even know. Kinda creepy. 


In the meantime, my company will still offer a very simple, low-tech alternative that has worked quite well for a few centuries -- a newspaper. A recent survey conducted by the Godwin advertising agency discovered that 70 percent of Mississippians still read newspapers. Sixty percent of Mississippians consider newspapers their most trusted source for advertising. 


In an age of 300 cable channels, satellite radio, Netflix streaming, a gazillion Web sites, the newspaper is the only mass media left. The big metro papers have taken a hit from all this media competition, but the hometown newspapers are holding their ground quite well. 


If you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have said the Web would be 30 percent of my business. Instead, it is five percent. For whatever reason, people seem to like hometown news served in printed form. Go figure. 


My theory is that print is traditional, simple, and familiar, the way we would like our lives to be. It is an antidote to the hectic confusion of the World Wide Web. Print is Mayberry. The liquid crystal display is not. 


In the meantime, I will be trying my best to come up with interesting tweets for my 108 followers.