It’s been nearly a decade since Per Lindbladh has traveled to the United States and visited Lebanon, but it still feels like home, he said Thursday.
Lindbladh came in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2002, and returned to Lebanon in 2003. On these sabbaticals, he travels across the country, mostly visiting small towns and reveling in their charm, then writing of his experiences in the Smalandposten, his newspaper in Vaxjo, Sweden.
Predictably, Lindbladh finds a warm reception at the offices of local newspapers, where he and his American colleagues can compare experiences and nervously contemplate the future of an industry in turmoil all over the globe.
Lindbladh met with Lebanon Daily Record editor Julie Turner-Crawford Thursday. Friday he headed south for visits to local newspaper offices in Mansfield and Mountain Grove, and this week he is scheduled to meet with representatives of TownNews, a company that was founded in 1989 to help newspapers deal with emerging technology. Now the service supports 1,500 news websites, including that of The Daily Record.
Lindbladh explained his fascination with Lebanon and other small American cities during a brief interview after his conversation with Turner-Crawford.
“It’s probably because I’ve grown up with American movies and American TV series. It’s like coming home, really. I feel at home in small American towns; I don’t know why. I find a strange charm in these kinds of cities,” he said.
On this two-week trip, Lindbladh is focusing on small-town news organizations. He began by visiting the headquarters of Patch, a national effort by Aol, formerly known as American OnLine, to put tiny news bureaus in towns all over the country, reporting “hyperlocal” content on the Internet.
Lindbladh doesn’t think the Patch business model will work over the long term, and the numbers bear him out. Patch earned between $8 and $20 million in 2011 — reports vary — but spent at least $160 million.
About twice as high a percentage of adults — 75 percent — in Sweden read a daily newspaper as in the United States. Lindbladh’s paper has a circulation of 40,000 in a city of 80,000. By comparison, the Daily Record’s circulation is about 5,000 in a city of 14,474.
The attitude of local newspaper people in the United States is refreshingly optimistic, however, Lindbladh said.
“We’re very pessimistic in Sweden. We don’t know how to make money on the web, and the readers are dying, and things like that. ... I find more optimism here, really,” he said.
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