Join effort to keep notices in public eye

Greg Morris
Greg Morris

By Greg Morris
IBJ Media

If you publish public notice advertisements in your publication, please pay attention.

Publishers got an email recently from HSPA Executive Director and General Counsel Steve Key regarding a request to prepare their publications to participate in the soon-to-be-launched upgraded statewide public notice advertising website.

There’s also information on this topic on Page 1 in this issue of The Publisher.

This is a major endeavor by HSPA for the benefit of member publications, and we need your support.

In fact, each publisher needs the support of every publication in the state that publishes public notice advertising.

We’re looking for 100 percent participation.

Why? Because that’s what is needed to help protect your public notice advertising from disappearing from the pages of your newspaper and ending up on government websites.

So please read Steve Key’s email from March 12 and respond.

Please read the article in this issue of The Publisher and react appropriately.

Public notice advertising in your newspaper is under attack in Indiana.

HSPA identified four anti-public notice bills in this session of the General Assembly.

When I went to testify against S.B. 458 at a state Senate committee meeting in February, the opening remarks from the bill’s sponsor really caught my attention.

State Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) said fewer adults read the newspaper than in the past, so why should government pay money to place public notice advertising in a medium that fewer people read.

This incorrect perception is prevalent in many places around the country.

In addition, many politicians completely disregard the importance of having an independent third party publish public notices.

We’re fighting the good fight and attempting to educate politicians and the public about the importance of public notices and why newspapers are the best entity to provide that information. But it’s not just print newspapers we’re defending anymore.

We’re talking about print and digital newspapers and how they work together to better inform the public.

The goal of public notices is to get information to as many people as possible.

When you combine the reach of newspaper readership and a newspaper’s website viewers, you’ve got a massive audience.

Statistics point to an overall decline in print newspaper readership. That is a fact, especially in larger markets.

However, add the digital viewers of newspaper websites to the print readership and the total audience reach has never been larger.

And in smaller communities across the state with less media competition, newspaper readership continues to be steady or even grow.

So it’s not accurate for elected officials to say that public notice advertisements aren’t reaching large numbers of people anymore.

But we have to do a better job of promoting all our readership and viewership.

We need to promote our public notices on the front page of our newspapers.

We need to find more stories to write as alerted to us by public notices and refer readers to the actual public notice advertisement.

We need to make sure public notices are easy to find in the print newspaper.

We need to make sure public notice advertisements are prominent on our websites.

And we need 100 percent participation in HSPA’s soon-to-be updated and enhanced statewide public notice website.

Our industry needs to be able to show that all newspapers that accept public notice advertisements take their responsibility seriously to disseminate this information.

A lot of folks think this fight is simply about saving declining revenue for our publications.

Remember that perception is reality, and we must do a better job of educating everyone that this simply is not the truth.

As newspapers, we are under attack and we must respond appropriately.

The March newsletter from the Public Notice Resource Center alerted me to serious attacks on public notice in newspapers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, in addition to Indiana.

And AOL’s Patch wants official newspaper status in California to qualify for public notice advertising. A bill to that effect has been introduced in the California legislature.

It’s time to wake up, my friends, if you’re not awake already.

Thanks for doing all the right things to make public notice advertisements prominent in your publications and highly visible on your websites.

And thanks in advance for heeding Steve Key’s call to prepare and participate in HSPA’s soon-to-be-launched upgraded public notice website.

It’s important and deserves your close attention.

Greg Morris, HSPA board of directors president, is presi­­dent of IBJ Media and publisher of Indianapolis Business Journal.