Will smaller weekly papers save the industry?
Two recent clippings came to my attention that pose an interesting premise: smaller weekly papers with local community news might survive better than larger dailies that rely more on wire and syndication material.
In the April 3, 2006 edition of The New Yorker, James Surowiecki wrote a piece on the newspaper crisis (lower readership and advertising is threatening the health of the industry).
"...newspapers remain a surprisingly robust industry and generate tremendous amounts of cash every year. Most of them have profit margins that dwarf those of the average company...the reach of newspapers remain huge. Daily circulation is around $51 million (not including online readers) giving the industry more customers than any other traditional media outlet."
Surowiecki blames Wall Street jitters as part of the reason that newspapers are seen in the same light as the ice man: a relic of the past.
Here's a key part of his piece: "For most newspapers [to play to their strengths], this will mean abandoning things that are ubiquitous on the Internet, like stock tables and wire stores, and investing in content they can own, like serious local coverage and in-depth reporting."
The other piece was a May 16th story from the Boston Globe's web site ( the Globe has seen considerable lay-offs in its news staff) about a company called Gatehouse Media spending $400 million to buy up 124 smaller papers in the Boston. The company believes that the smaller community paper can deliver "a highly targeted audience."
It's all about content, local content and many dailies do not seem to be able or willing to invest in it as they once did.
what I've seen succeed in my area is giving people content they are not getting from the television stations that promise local news and deliver almost everything but local news; radios stations that have walked away from local content with the exception of a morning show; and dailies that stretch their local content so much that people in one area are forced to read stories from an area that means nothing to them.
Local. Local. Local. That's my mantra. What's yours?
© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. A gentle reminder: nothing I write here reflects the opinions of my employers, my staff, our advertisers or anyone but me.