Monday, March 12, 2007

Local Newspapers again. They really are feeling well!

The Economist did a scary story on how newspapers are dying and everybody freaked out to the place where corporations have started divesting themselves of their newspaper business. But as an industry trend, it just isn’t true. There is very little data to back it up and lots of data that contradicts it. One study did say that print circulation is down 2%. (Yes, but is circulation up on the newspaper's web site?) TV viewing is also down by about that same amount, but nobody is saying that the TV is dead.

I talked about this once before. About how they are measuring increases of market penetration of over 50% for papers with a web site.

And here is another link to back it up:

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, newspaper circulation is growing and new
newspapers are being launched at a remarkable rate, new and revised data from
the World Association of Newspapers shows.“

I think the big guys may be in trouble and that is creating a skewed picture. It used to be that one of the few choices you had for national / global news was a big newspaper. It was the local paper or the NY Times or Wall Street Journal. But now national and global news comes at us 24 / 7 from every direction and every type of media format. I see this market continuing to splinter. The success of Fox news and Olbermann’s rocket growth makes me think that more and more people are seeking out a news source that matches their own biases.

I wonder if this is a trend. It used to be that news sources did their best not to have a bias. Most would say they still do, but I’m not sure it’s possible in today’s time. Is news like Fox News a trend that is going to grow or a flash in the pan? Something I need to think about.

On the other hand, the local newspapers themselves are doing fine. It’s a little scary right now because things are changing for them, but I think that local papers have some amazing opportunities now.

Good web properties can make millions and millions a year from online advertising and sponsored links. Anybody or anything that can capture a good chunk of readers is in line to make money. I think local newspapers have a huge advantage going into this business. For example, they already have relationships with all the big local advertisers; they already have brand awareness and trust from the readers, they have niches for in-depth, investigative and/or local coverage.

And probably their biggest advantage they have is that they already have me. Eventually I realized that I was going to have to make some space and time for my local news. Where does one go for local news? Duh – the local newspaper. And once I get started with one news source it will take a lot to make me feel like picking up another

It’s a huge advantage.

And although some people will tell you that the bloggers (i.e. new media) are going to take over the world, I would answer that this might be true as soon as they get off their asses and actually cover a 5 car pileup on the highway at 11:00 pm on a rainy Sunday night. Right now 99% of what they do is sit around and criticize the content created by old media. This isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a really, really, really cool thing, but not an empire toppling kind of thing. Especially the same empire that gives them their content.

Maybe the print side of the newspaper is going away, or at least slowing down. But to me, the delivery format is not what a newspaper is about.

A newspaper is:

· A lot of useful information in a useful package.
· The go-to place for trusted investigative information.
· The go-to place for trusted local coverage. Nobody else does that
· Good judgment and cachet. If they cover something, it’s important and it’s real.
· Free (or pocket change.) They make their revenue from advertising.
· What ever else I need to achieve the basic goal of being part of “a well-informed citizenry.”

On a high level I want my local newspaper to take their responsibilities seriously:
· Original Content -- Not just a rehash of news I can get elsewhere. This content needs to be touched by a local human.
· Branding -- TRUST -- How do you know if it's true? A known bias. Be my friend.
· Investigation -- this is the value add over blogs. Again – a local human.
· Murrow level reporting: Justice for the powerless and protection from the powerful
· Pride – I want them to break open a national scandal occasionally. Play in the same sphere as the NYT or LAT. We need every media outlet to step up to the responsibilities now. Local scandals as well, but that’s more obvious than national ones.

I was in Miami for this winter's big Seattle wind storm and blackout. My husband had lost power and so I could only talk to him once or twice a day. I lived on the Seattle Times site. I felt like they were there for me and I felt like they were fanning out across the area for me. They were on the ground, seeing and feeling and helping. This is something the local papers know how to do. They’ve been doing it for two centuries. They are not going to be taken down by the cost of paper and ink.


Anonymous said...

Coupons. You forgot coupons. I will sometimes get the Sunday Pravda just for them. Don't tell anyone, though, because coupons are not considered manly.

Brandy Galos said...

Great Point!

And there is no reason why they can't do them on line too.

Or even a "gold box" kind of thing that is at the top of the page.

Anonymous said...

Saw this after reading your latest and though you'd be interested in someone actually in the industry's POV:

Brandy Galos said...

Thank you for this. I have been thinking about it for the last few days but I don't have room to post my responce here.

I will post it in the main blog section.

But really, really, really, I think you.