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April 21, 2011
In Oshawa, Print or Digital? A Question Lots of Communities are Facing
 
First, it's great that Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, a city of around 150,000 residents, has an annual newsletter (Inside Oshawa) at all. But which medium should it be in: print or digital? That's a question that's facing a lot of communities and organizations these days that are interested in informing their publics at an affordable cost. In Oshawa, the expense of the familiar print newsletter would be $13,000 this year. The proposed electronic version, with limited printed backup, would be $4,000. The resulting discussion has given the The Oshawa Express newspaper a lively story to cover.

Information may be trending to computers and the Web, but it's by no means entirely there yet. Concerned members of the Oshawa city council note that, of the more than 60,000 households in the city, only 300 subscribe to an e-newsletter currently and only 800 are following the city on Twitter — on Twitter, no less!

“I think it’s draconian all at once to say we’re not going to print copies to residents,” Oshawa council person Tito-Dante Marimpietri says, “The relevance of information in there is great. Most people want a hard copy. They still prefer the hard copy. There are some things you can’t take for granted like communication.”

Truly, you can't take communication for granted. And we're dealing here with a deeply ingrained custom — print circulation. We're only going by the Express' story (a fairly long one). But it seems that whenever an organization or community is proposing to switch from print to digital, there should be a good deal of discussion about what, specifically, will be different, and more compelling, about the proposed new digital format and how it will be promoted to readers accustomed to print. Savings are important, but bringing potential readers along is too. Not everyone has a computer, or is inclined to use one for keeping up with local news and information — at least not yet.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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