I’ve been thinking about Newsweek’s announcement last month – “Newsweek goes all digital” and the implications to newsprint, which has been struggling for many years. The New York Times has been providing both Digital and Printed material for some time, and has erected a paywall around much of their digital content. It seems that their paywall has been effective, even though I don’t have any insights on how profitable it may be.
We’ve had multiple examples of all digital content that has stumbled but I am not sure if that will be the same with local papers. There are two challenges that local papers are facing:
- Ad revenue – yup popular wisdom is that Craigslist has killed the local ad revenue – and I don’t have anything to disprove it.. Yard sales and swap meets no longer use the local paper. This has caused many local papers to be purchased by national media outlets. Those national companies can bring in national ad campaigns, thereby allowing local beat reporters to focus on local stories. And national stories from the national news bureaus. The challenge I see with this is that you get local reporters telling stories on national events. They don’t get the visibility and reach, to gain experience and move up in the media.
- Declining readership – more and more people are getting their news from social media and the Internet. We are all working longer days, due to global reach of businesses, and the time to sit in the morning, with a cup of coffee, reading the paper before work has basically disappeared for many. If we work in a traditional office, we may spend 20-45 minutes in a car rising to work, but reading a paper during the drive is dangerous at best (when I lived in Atlanta, I did see people doing it!!!).
So how do you fix this? Mobile apps! Apps that can stream audio of local stories, and with modern accessibility features in mobile phones, even read stories to us. While multitasking we can listen to the local news, and local reporters can be discovered via social media to share storeis which have a reach beyond the area code they were written in.
At a recent mobile developer meet up, I met a local developer whose company has developed a platform used by one of the local tv stations to provide their news feed via mobile devices. I have dug thru my notes and can’t find the name of the company, nor the local tv station, but as soon as I do, I will do a deeper review and see if it can be used for the local papers too. Perhaps they can help us save the local paper.