By David Hopper
June 18, 2012
I don’t claim to be a brilliant money expert. Yes, you’d probably want me managing your portfolio before you handed it over to spendaholic Nicolas Cage (in case you ever wondered why someone would need two Albino king cobras, the answer is that you need one for each of your two Bahamian islands. Duh). But I’ve never had a wonderful “buy low, sell high” moment and probably the greatest return on investment I ever generated was when I gave my friend three-to-one odds that he couldn’t do the “gallon challenge” (look it up – I’ll be here when you get back).
Still, when someone says they’d rather own newspaper companies than gold or high-tech stocks, I feel confident enough in my business savvy to think that person is crazy…until that person is “The Oracle of Omaha” himself, billionaire Warren Edward Buffett.
Buffett has created a stir in financial news lately over his announcement that he’s interested in buying certain types of newspapers, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is. His legendary holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has already purchased a slew of newspapers across the country, and he’s suggesting there are more purchases to come. What’s also funny is that Buffett has no interest in the big-name papers, avoiding groups like the New York Times the way Nic Cage avoids character development and compelling emotions*.
Instead, Buffett has been scooping up small and midsize local newspapers that most people have never heard of (who picked up their copy of the Bryan-College Station Eagle, this week?). He’s insisting that this buying spree isn’t a charity stunt, and the success of Berkshire Hathaway is a reminder that the company itself really isn’t in the business of losing money. Besides, Buffett’s charity stunts are usually way more impressive – like auctioning off a lunch with him for $3.5 million.
Buffett has explained where he sees the strengths in these specific smaller papers, pointing to their hyper-local focus, roots in the community and name recognition as long-established papers. And when it comes to spotting a good business, the man has a pretty solid track record.
The boom in social media and digital marketing has opened up the floodgates for a variety of businesses to try and sell their expertise in reaching audiences. But just because someone knows how to send a tweet, create an electronic newsletter or get a website to show up in search results doesn’t mean they know how to advocate and make an audience take action. And if they’re neglecting mainstream media entirely, they’re only half-effective at best.
“Traditional” media is changing, but Buffett’s interest proves that it still has a bright future and remains an important part of the communication puzzle. As a recent graduate, it’s been great to see digital prowess intersect with personal connections and journalistic expertise at Martin Waymire, where more than half the staff is former journalists. Understanding all channels of media, whether traditional or emerging, is what separates the good organizations from the greatest.
And let’s face it: everybody wants to be the greatest – especially Nic Cage.
*Credit where credit is due: Lord of War and Gone in 60 Seconds are awesome movies.
(Photo Credits: Kirk W and Medill DC via Flickr Creative Commons License)