When considering the decline of the print press model, professionals need to decipher if the trend correlates equally to smaller papers. It is true that local papers may not have felt the shock of digital technology as much as national titles. Why is that? Rick Edmonds from Poynter explains that community papers have benefitted from an innate buffer between them and online news. Yet with the rapid growth of technology and hyperlocal news, journalists should not become compliant.
One major reason why weekly local papers are fairing better than national titles is they have not been hit as hard by the loss of advertisement revenue. "Competition from free ad services (such as Craigslist) and from digital startups is likely to be less intense," notes Edmonds. "In rural areas, even broadband access has arrived slowly." He also mentions that national advertising was never really a factor for smaller newspapers, and currently local rural business have not completely caught onto digital alternatives. These business are also still consuming the newspapers, with the higher circulation rate indicating that local papers are still perceived as vital to smaller industries. Unfortunately for larger newspapers, advertising is continuing to suffer. Best Buy, one of the major contributors to the revenue of national print advertisement, is now shifting it advertising funds from papers to television.
The local feel of these papers adds to its charm, reports The Independent. Georgina Harvey, president of the Newspaper Society, claims "Regional newspapers are more relevant to the modern-day reader than they have ever been," she says. "Life is becoming increasingly local. People spend more than half their time within a five-mile radius of their home and they are shopping nearly two miles closer to their home than they did five years ago." This may be relevant why in the UK, 19 local papers were launched while only 8 were shut down. While professionals in the local newspaper industry are wary of hyperlocal news sites such as Patch, Harvey clarifies that the changes will create a symbiotic relationship.
Roy Greenslade from The Guardian seriously questions whether the "localness" of papers are truly protecting them from the digital shifts. He notes that a major reason that regional newspapers have managed to not close is more due towards consolidation of staff. "The (digital) innovations (editors) favor are those that reduce production costs and, thus, staff numbers. That may be good for the business of newspapers, but it is not good for journalism and, therefore, not good for the public." Greenslade also points out that the ABC circulation figures still show a downward trend for local newspapers, and many readers are moving slowly towards online content.
The trend might be slower than what it was for national papers, yet it is inevitable that local print will feel the same business model ramifications as national titles. What do local newspapers need to do to update their business model before online news takes a stronger hold?
Image: The Guardian