newspaper originally uploaded by GiantsFanatic
Jeff Achen, a well known journalist from Thisweek/ECM recently posted an excellent blog entry entitled A new business model for local news may be on the horizon where he discusses the options that their struggling industry has in moving forward with providing news to the general public.
Jeff discusses the advertising woes that the newspaper industry has with steep competition in classifies, auto ads and real estate listings. He wonders if local media sources can get away with a subscription model in providing their news to the people all while changing their format to a low-profit entity whose primary mission would be to provide a social benefit first and foremost over making a profit.
This is an interesting topic as many of us are interested in the news that the local media provides about our political and social activities around the South Metro. I have probably linked to this before and I know I have mentioned in during The Show interview I had with Jeff recently but Time Magazine wrote an article about what occurs when local media disappears and the content is a bit frightening:
1. Lower voter turnout
2. Fewer people run for office
3. More incumbents are reelected
According to the article this only occurred in larger areas but being that this article came from a study done on a newspaper in the Midwest with a circulation very similar to the regional papers that Thisweek publishes (18,000 to 25,000 depending) I’d have to say that we would definitely fall prey to this.
I argue that while we need the local media to continue its coverage, it needs to be modified heavily before they move to a subscription model which will not work at all. They need to drop fluff coverage, sports, and all the press release rewrites that they offer to local governments and instead concentrate on what’s truly important. Jeff later agrees (true journalists!) but I really wonder if the management of the smaller local papers will.
I came up with the big question all the local papers should be asking themselves as they work to reposition themselves in a tough market:
Why is it that some random idiot with a computer, a car, and a telephone can provide information to a group of people in their spare time and for free when we cannot?
And so I wonder what everyone here thinks the local papers should do to better their chance at survival while providing us with the information we need to avoid falling into the political void that can come from lack of information? This is an important topic for both old and new media and one that needs citizen input to work. So do us all a favor and comment on and let us know what you think!