Pew Internet, Local News and the Newspaper Business Model

Pew Internet’s new survey on how people learn in their community gives us insight that is both predictable and maybe surprising: Local newspapers matter but they can’t share info without a viable revenue source:

Pew Local News Sources 2011

(1) Local newspapers aren’t dead

They are particularly important when it comes to local community news, including local government and other political news, where impact on our daily olives is most obvious, reporter access greater and mainstream media coverage less. In my community, Lamorinda Weekly, a free newspaper delivered to all local homes, has a dedicated staff who have been covering local beats for years now, know the players and have a level of perspective that only a local resident could have.

(2) We turn to the Internet to find Local Business Information

No surprise, but a good reminder for local businesses — online matters, even if you only sell through a brick-and-mortar storefront. People are looking for solutions before they walk through your door. You need to be there — on local business profiles like Google, Yahoo & Bing. You need to pay attention to your Yelp. Create a website and then draw traffic to it in as many ways as you can think to do within your time and dollar budget.

Why don’t we turn to local newspapers for business information? We do — but not  for the at-the-moment-solution search. And we can’t count on newspapers to talk about all businesses. We might hear of a new business from a local newspaper if it has a compelling story. Or maybe we’ll read the byline of a newspaper columnist, often drawn from industry experts providing content in hopes of raising brand awareness.

Just don’t expect the paper to turn into the local business news, unless it’s all info-mercial styled. Newspapers need advertising revenue to survive. They’re not going to fill their content with stories that are really advertisements in disguise. Even our local Patch newspaper blog filters through reader-reported “announcements” to pull out any that smell of an Ad. And for good reason.

If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have even the hope of an effective business model.

Before you scoff, keep in mind: You’re not willing to pay top-dollar for the newspaper. If business didn’t pay, who would?





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