One of our regular columnists, Marilyn Moss Rockefeller, forwarded an email she received from a person who discovered her writings through a friend and Google. The following is an excerpt from that email:

“I learned of your writing from another Moss tent aficionado in California who gave me the title ‘Mrs. Moss’ Bathtub’ (I have been saving my own claw-foot bathtub for years until I find just the right spot for it). I Googled the title and found VillageSoup, started reading… and joined, to read more. By the way, I just found a beautiful house through the Herald Gazette in Camden and that is advertised as coming with a Moss tent as a part of the deal (actually a green Parawing)! “…

“The Internet is truly an amazing thing. I am so grateful it has provided me with a means and way to share some thoughts with you via a typewritten communication and through the VillageSoup and Herald Gazette an opportunity to enjoy your work as a writer. Additionally, VillageSoup and the Herald Gazette, through the Internet, has allowed me to open my window in California and look out to see the wonderful communities of Midcoast Maine. My dear grandmother, from Fredericton, New Brunswick, always said I would love Maine. I think she was right. I read today the wonderful stories about your first home, collection of guests, dogs, Scottish neighbor and the bottle of fine French wine. It all makes me want to move to Maine.”

This note reinforces a point made in a column I wrote last week for our papers. I suggested that the newspaper of tomorrow will be known more for its ability to reveal the richness of the place, people and the events we call home rather than for its answers to questions regarding the vote or game outcome, a reason for loud sirens, or the specials at your favorite restaurant and what movie, performance or gallery opening you might attend. The Internet has given us the ability to find these answers on demand, no longer forcing us to await the paper’s publication.

This unsolicited email to Marilyn Rockefeller came from someone who shared a passion for claw-foot bathtubs and camping equipment. This individual subscribed to The Herald Gazette to enjoy the stories of our residents and their passions. He found a common interest and joined our community.

He explored our real estate offerings, becoming a potential customer whose discovery may make him a buyer. While the Internet has allowed us to find the exact product or service when we make the decision to purchase, print continues to lead us places we did not intend to go, to find that which we were not seeking — to become purchasers in the same way print advertising has worked since the late 1800s.

I dwell on this point because infatuation with the Internet has led consumers and advertisers to discount the value of print advertising. Wikipedia has the following entry: “Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common.”

Online advertising serves an audience ready to act. Print advertising can serve that audience, too, but increasingly it serves the audience open to discovery and persuasion.

And print advertising is crucial to the survival of professional journalism. No news organization is sustaining traditional levels of professional journalism through online advertising. I am not aware of any news organization serving a community as small as the 80,000 residents of Knox and Waldo counties that generates more online revenue than do The Herald Gazette and The Republican Journal. Yet our $500,000 online revenue, likely 10 times that of any news site serving a market our size, is less than 25 percent of our total advertising revenue. To provide the news crucial to an informed citizenry, we need to keep print relevant, so advertisers can continue to communicate and persuade our audience to take action with respect to their product or service.

And beginning Dec. 1, 2011, The Herald Gazette will merge its current Wednesday and Friday publication into a new Thursday publication. Likewise, its sister publication, The Republican Journal, will also become a Thursday paper. With both, we will place more emphasis on analysis, commentary and life stories that reveal the richness of the events and people we encounter in our day-to-day life in Midcoast Maine, while maintaining our dedication to keeping citizens aware of important events and issues.