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Most newspaper's business model is as outdated as this clipart.
Most newspaper's business model is as outdated as this clipart.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 1/2 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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