Looking around the newspaper industry, the big conglomerate-owned publications are in trouble, but the small-town weeklies seem to be okay.
Therefore, it would seem that as news moves online, the race to capture the hyperlocal audience would be fierce.
But, this isn’t necessarily so. Which begs the question: Why not?
After all, the majority of people in this county don’t live in cities according to a Pew Research Center study.
Sure there are papers – like The Miami Herald, The Seattle Times and several others – that are partnering with supplemental blogs to add a local flavor, but this seems largely an academic exercise rather than an economic attempt to capture a readership.
Don’t get me wrong, journalism’s core values are relatively academic, but the business model is largely a professional endeavor grounded in trial and error.
Embracing “journalistic tendencies as a common denominator” as Peggy Sturdivant calls it, and allowing for the collaboration between citizen and journalist with an increasingly blurred line of demarcation between viable local news produced by “amateurs” and more substantiated (from an economic perspective) publications produced by “professionals” can help ensure the survival of the craft as a whole.
After all, the goal is to attract readers to what we write.
Could it be that once again – as was the case with online classified advertising and the advent of Craigslist – that mainstream publications are missing the boat? For their sake, I hope not.
News is moving online. There’s no point in denying it.
As New Haven Independent editor Paul Bass said, “Power of the press now belongs not to those who own one, but to those who own a modem. We own a modem.”
This is one basis of the Internet revolution pertaining to journalism. Publishing content is relatively simple and inexpensive and no longer limited to those who can afford expensive printing presses.
Of course, the other side of the coin is that while with printed material it costs only a small fee for access, the free material published online requires readers to have Internet access (shockingly, not everyone does).
However, this problem will soon be a moot point. Just this week, the Federal Communications Commission unveiled a plan to spread broadband access to rural areas.
Not too long ago, people couldn’t read news on their phones; now, most everyone has a smartphone capable of more sophisticated stuff than the computers of five years ago. So, it shouldn’t take long for rural readers’ technology to catch up to that of rural publishers.
With the access problem effectively sidestepped, local startups are free to return to practicing journalism.
For instance, people in small communities like McIntosh, Fla., become tired of the lack of local news in The Gainesville Sun; so, someone starts a blog pertinent to local issues.
Certainly, not all local publications will be sustainable – as shown by the death of certain town pages on WikiCity – but this doesn’t give credence to Perry Gaskill’s point of view that partnering with these pages isn’t worth the effort for newspapers. As one startup goes belly-up, several more will take that one’s place.
Of course, this presents a problem, albeit a small one, for newspapers in the form of which blogs to choose for partnerships, but it seems these local news spots aren’t being suppressed by lack of support from traditional media organizations.
So, support in the form of even a named partnership between newspaper and blog curator allowing easier access when knocking on doors should suffice – and to the benefit of both organizations. It doesn’t have to be extravagant and elaborate.
That way, should the local blog shut down, not much is lost on the end of the newspaper.
This is certainly the way the Twin Cities Daily Planet thinks.
So, be progressive mainstream journalism publications and don’t miss the boat on this one like you did with online classified advertising.