Welcome to the first edition of the NEW Stars & Strikes. We will call it Stars & Strikes Digital – SSD.
What’s new you say?
Not much, except for the first time in 26 years, you will only be able to read our little offering on your electronic devices; not on a printed page.
For us and for a few of our readers I’m afraid, this will be a shocking change. Many of you dear and faithful readers have already been reading SSD on your computers and tablets for several years, but there are a few that still enjoy picking up “the paper” in their favorite bowling center or pro shop and taking it to read while they are bowling in their league or taking it home with them to peruse at their leisure.
There are several reasons for this monumental decision, the least of which is that our printer has decided to nearly double what we are being charged to print and ship what we call the “hard copies” every month. There was a day when this printing cost was a relatively small expense that was offset by advertising; but in recent years, as bowling centers have dwindled and advertising has fallen off, we can no longer justify spending a growing percentage on printing; and we have always tried to get the best quality printing at the best price over the years. Stars & Strikes has been printed in several different places, enabling us to afford the cost. With the status of the newspaper business in general these days, one would think that costs would get smaller, but sadly, web printing companies seem to want more money from fewer customers. Maybe that is why there are fewer web printers.
But enough about our operational decisions; what does “going digital” really mean?
It means that we now have a lot of freedom to do things with our pages that do not involve the restrictions and rules of printing on newsprint paper – the number of pages, page sizes, where to use color, etc. etc. It means that we can send SSD anywhere in the world; not just to those places where we can afford shipping. It means that we can eventually put links inside stories to provide additional information and details. But it also means that we are faced with enormous challenges of finding advertisers that are willing to pay for electronic distribution, which also means we have to prove to a certain degree how many copies are sent out each month and how many are read and forwarded.
Fortunately, there are ways to do that these days that simply did not exist only a few years ago. As the founder of the Bowling News Network, we have been telling our members for several years that any publishers who are not getting engaged in email distribution, social media, and other current formats are not going to be around much longer. Some may still argue that we are not at the point where we need to abandon printed papers, and we respect their opinions and admire their ability to maintain the status quo. This is an individual and very difficult decision for publishers, and many have already chosen to close their papers rather than make the tough choices we now face.
Will we be successful? We don’t know; just like we did not know when we first started Stars & Strikes 26 years ago in 1991; although it seems to be a completely different business now than it was then.
All we know is that we have a plan and we will do our best to make it work. We also know that we love bowling as much now as we did 26 years ago, and we hope that we can successfully convert SSD into this new format and that it will have value that can be passed on to someone who might want to keep it going when we no longer can.
How will we pay for it? Frankly, out of our own pocket for a while, but we hope that in the months ahead we can convince companies in the industry to sponsor our home page that will distribute the paper across the globe once we can show them some numbers that make sense to them.
The possibilities are pretty exciting; and we are not starting from zero. We have been sending SSD to bowling centers and pro shops and our VIP lists for years; and we have encouraged those getting SSD via email to forward it to their own lists. We believe that most bowling centers now have a customer data base where they can share SSD as an added value item. Many are doing this already, and our job is to document how many so we can find sponsors for our mass emails.
So . . . welcome to our new world. We have all been living in the digital age for several years. We hope you will recognize that this is our best option for continuing Stars & Strikes, and that you and hopefully several bowling industry companies will support our new efforts.
Welcome to SSD.