Local News can Survive Online

It should be pretty obvious by now, but the internet is radically changing the nature of the publishing business. Much like Johann Gutenberg’s original printing press, online publishing software and content management systems reduce the capital investment required for a writer to make the transition into publishing and media distribution.

Old media industries – particularly television and radio and local newspapers – have been hard hit by the resulting shift in advertising dollars. The internet allows advertisers to focus their message on target audiences in a much more specific way than “mass media” could ever hope to accomplish. Niche marketing creates higher conversion rates, because the viewer of the advertisement has already been matched as someone who is more likely to be interested in the product in question.

And wow, has local news been hit hard. Even big time papers are announcing mass layoffs and permanent closures of certain departments ranging from literature to local cultural events.

But its not all gloom & doom: My own local paper is adapting, and they’re going online to deliver local news in Jacksonville.

Here are some technological advances they’ve incorporated to get the most out of local news coverage:

  • Crowd-sourcing: There’s plenty of space on the digital paper to include more community-based journalists and local university students who might not otherwise get published.
  • Interaction: The “Just-In” stories use a blog-style format that allows users to contribute comments directly on the news item. There’s also a forum where people can discuss topics in greater depth, but it has serious limits in my opinion as the software is old and it doesn’t support images or hyper-links. This just means even more potential left untapped for now.
  • Updates: When was the last time a paper and ink newspaper told you what the traffic was like right before you got in your car to go to work? When hurricane Fay recently hit our city, the local newspaper had constantly updated storm reports online.

And of course, the money must be good. While a lot of local newspapers are firing long-time staff, ours is looking for new advertising managers.

How is your local newspaper doing? Have they adapted with the times, or are they slowly fading away?

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