Editorial: Embracing change

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Change.  It is one of those things that people hate.  The thought of embracing the unknown does not evoke a comfortable feeling in most people, but if you stop to think about it for a while, you will realise that the unknown is never known until you explore.
And that is what we are doing here at the OBSERVER Media Group of Companies (OMG).  We are continuing the work of our founders, Samuel ‘Fergie’ Derrick and Winston Derrick in exploring the unknown, because you never know what can be achieved until you try.
The Daily OBSERVER is proudly in its 25th year of publication because of the DNA that the Derrick brothers instilled in the company. A major part of that DNA was to embrace change.  Our founders believed that complacency and the so-called ‘zone of comfort,’ were enemies to success, and they were quick to welcome change and the unknown.  In fact, it was the unknown that led them to the company’s motto “Let there be light!”
With the comfort of our founders’ philosophy at our backs, The Daily OBSERVER is charting a new course into the unknown.   Beginning next week, the company will start its digital transformation, with the first step being a change in our print production schedule.  While the newspaper will still be created daily, it will only be physically printed and distributed three days per week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays).  The paper will still be available every day of the week as an electronic edition.  And for those freaking out that their election coverage will be hampered, relax in the knowledge that the company will be making the electronic version of the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday paper available free of charge for the month of March.
After you get over the initial shock and discomfort of all of this change, you will begin to see that this probably fits your life more comfortably than that which has been traditionally available.  Judging from our in-house statistics, we know that our content is consumed more by online readers than by those that purchase our paper on the street.  And that trend will continue.  Day by day, month by month, people have been abandoning the bulk and inconvenience of paper for electronic delivery because it is more suited to their lifestyles.  And we are not unique.
A comparison of declining newspaper circulation in the United States closely mimics what has been happening here in Antigua and Barbuda in the last decade.  All newspapers around the world are struggling with the timing and process to transition to the world of digital.  And like everyone else, OBSERVER is feeling our way though this unknown and taking the best bits of advice available to formulate our plan.  
We know that this will not be popular with some, but it is necessary for us, long-term. We cannot continue to cater to a dwindling readership and ignore the business and societal changes that are happening around us.  It would be akin to burying our heads in the sand and hoping that time stands still.  Well, time waits for no man and we are not a group that likes darkness.
At the same time, many of us are traditionalists.  We like the feel and even the smell of paper.  We still buy books and do not own a Kindle or use any type of e-reader.  It is our bit of zen. We find few enjoyments in life that are as satisfying as turning the pages of a good book and tuning out the world.  It is difficult for us to think that an electronic version of that experience could even come close.  At the same time, we are in a minority and we realise that while we cling to paper, we have moved on in other areas of our lives.  We stream most of our content from the Internet – YouTube, podcasts, radio or international news, but we cling to our beloved paper.  It is a comfort that we do not want to change but know that eventually, we must.  
That is where many of us here at Observer find ourselves.  We love to be greeted by the printed paper in the morning.  We love to make our marks in the margins and use it to scribble our notes as the day progresses. We know everything that is in between the covers but we read through it anyway.  At the same time, we understand the business and we understand the needs of our customers, and we understand that we must change to remain relevant in people’s lives.
Interestingly, the first iteration of OBSERVER was distributed electronically. The OBSERVER by FAX was revolutionary and innovative.  Many younger people do not even know what’s a facsimile machine, but the recollection of those days and those ‘ancient artifacts,’ for those old enough to remember, must bring a smile. Now, 25 years later, we are seemingly returning to our roots. (By the way, a facsimile machine, for those that do not know, operated like a remote printer or copier.  Feed copy in the machine on one end and it popped out, printed, on the other end).
So, we invite you all to join us on this incredible, exciting journey into the future where we will be embracing change and looking forward to the unknown.  And as we journey together, we can also embrace the philosophy of Lao Tzu, the founder of philosophical Taoism, who has been quoted as declaring, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes Don’t resist them, that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

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