One Newspaper’s View of the Future
Penguin: Welcome to the Blogosphere

Where Do You Get Your News?

This AP report on MSNBC.com (thanks Juliana) summarizes a Pew report and indicates the number of people shifting to online resources for news is leveling off. Is that really something for the newspaper industry to celebrate? I’d be less concerned about finding the bottom of the market than I would be focused on how to become relevant again.

What do the statistics say? 31% of adults regularly log in for news. Interestingly, people in their 40’s were more likely to go online for news than those under 40. But as the article goes on to say, “young adults are more likely to not follow the news at all.”

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center also noted “online editions of newspapers are providing a bit of a life raft for newspapers…but it’s a pretty small life raft.” As I’ve mentioned before about the book publishing industry, nobody is going to get too excited about a direct port of the print product to a website. Sure, it’s a fine way to repurpose the content, pick up some traffic and make a few bucks on ads, but the competition is fierce. My local newspaper options are pretty limited, but if I want to go online for news the options are seemingly endless.

The most significant item in the article is this statement:

Local and community news are the big attraction for newspapers.

Yes, that’s what distinguishes your local paper from USAToday, Google News, etc. The local papers need to not only acknowledge this fact, but also embrace it and make it a core part of their strategy going forward. Community involvement, blogs and other tools need to be part of their online arsenal. It doesn’t all have to be online, btw. There’s room for great editorial coverage of the blogosphere, both local and national, for a print newspaper. This is an excellent opportunity for the editorial staff at your local paper to totally immerse themselves into the local/national blog scene and add value, both in print and online; what used to be the editorial page could grow significantly and become the central focus of what they have to offer.

Yahoo, Google, etc., are threatening your very existence. Take advantage of their weakness (no local “feet on the street”) and couple it with your strength (plenty of “local feet on the street”, in the form of reporters/editorial) and leverage the heck out of it…before they develop enough local community involvement in their own model, further crushing your brand and relevance.

Comments

Joel Fugazzotto

What a funny coincidence.... I had lunch with a group of people last week and this exact topic came up in our discussion. Almost half the people in the group like me rarely found themselves reading the paper anymore. We found almost all our news online. If you subscribe to multiple papers, as I did, what you find is many of the stories overlap in the different papers, so essentially you are paying for three different versions of the same story, which coincidentially could also be found online. Anyway, what came from this conversation was most people kept a subscription to their local paper and specialized papers such as the WSJ, but were moving away from the national and regional papers, where that news could be found online the day before as it was developing. As my local paper subscription comes up for its annual renewal next month, I'll have to think long and hard about shelling out another $280 per year for a paper I might read twice a week and where most the articles are already a day or two old.

Joe Wikert

Hi Joel. I too have been questioning how long I want to continue paying for the local paper. I'd really feel better about paying for that subscription if it included something other than the paper itself. Can't these guys start some sort of subscribers-only area on their websites with premium content or something? *Anything* to help make me *not* feel like I'm wasting my money on a hardcopy of the news I can find for free would be helpful!

Joel Fugazzotto

Hello Joe. I'm with you regarding this issue, though for me the premium content or whatever is behind that subscribers-only "wall" would have to be pretty compelling to convince someone like me that it's worth the money. When you have moment, check out http://www.backfence.com. Backfence's model or a variation of this model is what papers probably should be exploring right now in terms of targeting local news and getting the readership to engage.

With places like Craig's List taking away classifieds revenue and the online news sources taking away subscription revenue, it has to be hard to be in the newspaper business these days.

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