Because the people need to know…

Harried newspaper analysts across the nation spend a goodly amount of their time each and every day trying to determine exactly what their readers really want and how to deliver in it such a way that it will smack average subscribers right between the eyes and leave them begging for more.

Do readers want more political news, more sports, more sudoku or, perhaps, more Sideways TV listings?

It’s a tough and frequently debated subject, but I think I’ve got the answer for the nation’s frustrated news executives in two words:

Giant squid.

Hey, that caught your eye, didn’t it?

I came to this somewhat unorthodox conclusion while listlessly thumbing through a recent copy of Newsweek magazine. Sadly, it contained all the same old stuff in a fresh wrapper.

Rudy Giuliani? Ho-hum.

Barbi Bandits busted? Yawn.

Final essays of Susan Sontag? Sigh.

Colossal 990-pound squid captured in Antarctic waters?

Whoa! Don’t turn that page.

If it’s one thing we know about colossal squid stories, it’s that nobody ever passes one up. Gigantic squid are just naturally riveting.

Stories about giant squid have captured readers’ imaginations since the late 18th century, when unconfirmed reports of a giant squid wrapping its massive tentacles around a small whaling vessel burned through the maritime community like black powder floated on flaming bacon grease.

You want readers? Give ’em giant squid.

Nobody passes up an opportunity to read about the zany undersea ramblings of these 10-armed cephalopods. Best of all – unlike Bigfoot and the Swamp Thing – giant squid have credibility. We know they’re out there. We’ve seen ’em.

And these tentacled wonders fit comfortably into virtually any newspaper section you’d care to name.

Sports: “Use Your Fly Rod to Land the Giant Squid!”

Public Safety: “Giant Squid – Threat or Menace?”

Politics: “Is Obama the Next Big Squid?”

Food: “Calamari for 350 Easy as 1, 2, 3!”

Health: “Giant Squid: High Adventure, Low Cholesterol.”

Home Improvement: “Indoor Squidquarium – Colorful and Educational.”

Newspapers could draw in even more readers with “Name Our Giant Squid” contests or by sponsoring a seasonal “Adopt-A-Squid” program at regional schools and aquariums.

Actually, any newspaper promotional campaign that begins with “Hey, Kids!” and ends with “Giant Squid” is bound to be a subscription builder.

On the other hand, any newspaper promotion that begins with “Hey, Kids!” and ends with “Dick Cheney” is simply going to traumatize a lot of children.

Some newspapers may even want to change their mottos to reflect the trend: “All the Squid that’s Fit to Print” or, perhaps, “Well Squid, Well Read.”

No question about it, amigos, when it comes to putting America’s once indispensable newspapers on the comeback trail, it just doesn’t get any better than giant squid …

Originally published April 1, 2007