RIP, Oldspapers

The dai­ly news­pa­pers owned by the con­glom­er­ates have failed to serve the local mar­ket, and instead serve up cheap, stale wire news. Why should I trust a news­pa­per head­quar­tered in Asheville to serve up qual­i­ty news about nation­al issues? I go to the Times or the Jour­nal for that.

Most newspaper's business model is as outdated as this clipart.
Most news­pa­per busi­ness mod­els are as out­dat­ed as this cli­part.

Like­wise, I wouldn’t trust a nation­al news­pa­per to tell me about local sports scores, local busi­ness news, local fea­tures, etc. I go to the Moun­tain XPress for that. Here are three obser­va­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions, part­ly inspired by the XPress.

  1. The key to suc­cess in this third age of news­pa­pers is to only cov­er the region where the read­ers actu­al­ly spend their time. Where they eat, work, shop, com­mute and reside. This is what’s miss­ing. I don’t just mean end­less slide shows of hol­i­day parades — I mean actu­al, inves­tiga­tive report­ing on local issues, com­pelling fea­tures of local suc­cess­es, sprin­kled with a few more “this is how we fit in the world” sto­ries that broad­en the scope into the wider con­text of our region, state and nation. Nation­al news should not be “how many Sen­a­tors vot­ed for the stim­u­lus” it should be “how does the stim­u­lus actu­al­ly affect local insti­tu­tions and gov­ern­ments?”
  2. Tight inte­gra­tion with online tools will help get the real prod­uct — not the 12 pound of ink and paper but the local report­ing, the orig­i­nal can’t-get-it-elsewhere infor­ma­tion into the pipeline and in front of peo­ple how­ev­er they choose. RSS news­read­ers, Twit­ter and oth­er tools are now accessed by peo­ple on their cell phones and homes.  Infor­ma­tion is car­go, so embrace all of the deliv­ery meth­ods.
  3. Where there are eyes, there will be adver­tis­ers. Adver­tis­ing will fol­low. Don’t wor­ry about it.  Con­cen­trate on your orig­i­nal con­tent. How­ev­er, I do see a role for nation­al ad orga­ni­za­tions that news­pa­pers buy into so as to still be able to access the nation­al adver­tis­ers that would oth­er­wise ignore the under-50,000 view­er mar­kets.

Every time I see a nation­al head­line on a local news­pa­per, I see the death of that busi­ness mod­el is yet a lit­tle clos­er. The end­less kata­mari of the nation­al con­glom­er­ates has expired, and the quick­er they die the bet­ter. The long slow decline has accel­er­at­ed, and there are oppor­tu­ni­ties to be had for nim­ble orga­ni­za­tions that have the cojones to adapt quick­ly.

Do you have exam­ples of good imple­men­ta­tions of the new old media? Here are my two local favorites:

And please, poke some holes in this and give me some oth­er per­spec­tives — I’m con­tin­u­al­ly shap­ing my out­look.

1 Comment

  1. It’s an hon­or to have Xpress held up as an exam­ple — but then, read­ing your com­ments, I’d say you are see­ing the same dynam­ic that we are. Your three points are on the mark (keep it local, tho offer sto­ries with glob­al con­text as rel­e­vant; use all deliv­ery meth­ods; don’t focus on the mon­ey — that will fol­low on its own if you stay rel­e­vant)

    What to add to your excel­lent trio? Take the high road; hon­or everyone’s sto­ry, no mat­ter how dif­fer­ent; media is about col­lab­o­ra­tion and con­ver­sa­tion, not empire and broad­cast; every­one is or can be a pub­lish­er now; democ­ra­cy must rise from the grass­roots; to build a hi-tech glob­al soci­ety that’s sta­ble and sus­tain­able requires an equal push toward decen­tral­ized, com­mu­ni­ty-based soci­eties.

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