Blog Post

Ten Things Local Newspapers Need To Do

Forget the swirling debates over building paywalls or shaking down Google (NSDQ: GOOG), MediaShift’s Mark Glaser has some different suggestions for newspapers. Glaser’s list is a good addition to the newspaper-survival guide he put out back in December, which included aggregating content from outside sources, creating classified ad networks, and focusing on hyperlocal advertising.

1. Smaller print runs: Targeting isn’t just an online thing; newspapers can target specific neighborhoods and do a smaller, custom print run tailored to certain coverage areas.

2. All local, all the time: Newspapers have been shedding plenty of jobs, but newspapers can bring in the work of local bloggers who are already doing the work for free. They might appreciate the higher profile and even the chance to share some ad revenue.

3. Out with circ staff, in with SEO: This one will be hard for newspapers to follow, but Glaser says to cut the circulation, printing, print production side and supplant them with more tech, SEO, community managers. Your readers are online and it’s time to cultivate that readership. More after the jump

4. Get a “real focus group”: If you want to find out what your readers want, don’t hire a focus group. Just go out and talk to your community and ask them what they’re looking for.

5. Marry user-gen and professional: The twain can meet; encourage user-gen content and then put a professionally edited sheen over it.

6. Find a better reason for multimedia: Just because anyone can use a video camera, doesn’t mean you should run clips for the hell of it. Find a good reason to use video or audio — and if you don’t have one, don’t use it.

7. Mixed revenues: There’s no either or when it comes to subscription paywalls or ad support. Find a way to bring as many revenue streams into the mix, including seeking donations and selling directory listings.

8. Readers like database projects: It’s all about getting local; readers want anything that focuses on their particular world. Mapping and database initiatives are pretty novel ways of attracting readers.

9. You’re in the directory business: Newspapers missed out early on by not broadening their advertiser mix to include plumbers and pizza places. Online directories snapped up those dollars when the space was still growing substantially. Still, better late than ever, a number of newspapers have been turning to local businesses they previously ignored. And given newspapers’ continued brand advantage, they can set up their own local directories and beat the interlopers at their own game.

10. Get everyone’s ideas: If war is too important to leave to generals, saving the newspaper business is too important to be left to the publishing side. Encourage every part of the business to figure out their own top 10 suggestions to save the paper and reward the good ones.

4 Responses to “Ten Things Local Newspapers Need To Do”

  1. Jacob Polikoff

    Newspapers should begin looking at new start-ups like and SkyTorch… these new powerful applications can certainly enhance publication business departments.

  2. These are great suggestions. You're one of those guys that really is pointing the way. It's so sad to watch newspapers stumbling around out in the bushes.

    And the focus group thought makes perfect sense and can be done with paid staff being given time to mingle at community events and so forth, including events sponsored by newspapers.

    I've been in paid focus groups and they have their place but they attract people who want to get paid more so than users who care about a community institution that's in trouble.

  3. it's fascinating to me that not one of these is "Marry/migrate the user to new (web) platform"

    That is the real problem for newspapers. Their industry giants/experts/etc don't tell them to do the most important thing — and the ONLY thing that'll guarantee newspaper survival….

  4. Not sure what this one means:
    "4. Get a “real focus group”: If you want to find out what your readers want, don’t hire a focus group. Just go out and talk to your community and ask them what they’re looking for."

    What's the difference? It sounds like you're saying this:

    – Take what's now a structured, professionally managed process (i.e. questioning members of your user community through the medium of a focus group firm that specializes in arranging, conducting and interpreting such interviews), and:

    -Replace it with an informal, on-the-fly process, that might include:

    -Roping your already overworked editorial and/or marketing staffs into picking up the work of regularly gathering readers' reactions to the product and collating them into a form usable for business planning purposes.

    Is that what you're saying? If not, what did I miss about that Point #4?