The small shall inherit?
This TV news item caught my eye not because it’s a great piece of journalism, but it highlights an issue that the newspaper crisis isn’t only affecting the major metro markets. The thousands of small community newspapers are suffering as well. Many of them are suffering without the types of resources that a Tribune Co., E.W. Scripps or MediaNews may still have.
But what really impressed me was the spirit of the Williamson Daily News’ publisher, who despite a 50% decrease in circulation over the decade continues to stress that his organization provides the news that can’t be found through Google, the New York Times or CNN. (Keep in mind that a 50% circulation loss for Williamson would be a minor blip for the NY Times or USA Today)
And he’s right. If anyone has a chance to survive the crisis, it’s the community newspapers. Although advertising is affected by economic terms, the papers in these small communities will likely not be affected by Craigslist (though they should prepare for battle in the likelihood Craigslist or another service launches an uberlocal product) or other revenue zappers that have hit the metros hard.
The town hall meetings and high school football games are still important to the readers in these markets, and as long as the newspapers can provide this sort of information, they will survive.
This doesn’t mean that community newspaper publishers can just sit back and weather out the storm. They still need to focus on developing new products to meet the changing reading habits of the audience. This means developign out their websites as well as alternative delivery methods. After all, there is still the threat of indpendent community journalism sites setting up in their turf.
But local is the future for news organizations, especially newspapers. You can see that now as the once “regional” papers like the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News refocus themselves to the cities they are based in.
In the new world, the news organization that captures the local market on all delivery platforms will rule.