Yesterday I pulled out the local paper. Well I guess first I need to clarify that...we have three "local" papers. So the one I was reading at that moment is the smallest of the three.As I read, I counted the number of articles written by reporters employed at the paper, rather than the "Associated Press" byline that is becoming a little too familiar. Total count for local reporters? Five. Wow.
Many of you know that I am a journalism major. I'm crazy about the printed word, whether it's printed on paper, a computer screen, or papyrus. I am a fan of newspapers and have been impacted personally by their demise. However, like a lot of others, I don't think the Internet killed newspapers. I think newspaper publishers are doing that all by themselves.
I know it's hard to compete against the flood of news online. There's always someone who will get that big national story faster, or a blogger who will scoop everyone else. So how do you compete against that? You don't.
Local news outlets need to remember where they are. Their best way to compete is to cover what none of those online competitors will, and that's local news. And I'm talking to you, too, local TV stations. Stop telling me the news I've just heard on NPR and am about to hear again on the national news. How about telling me what just happened down the street? That's news I really can use.
I have an aunt who owns a newspaper in small Virginia community. She does a great job of keeping the news focused on her community. That's her core readership and her core competency. She doesn't need a "World News" section or even a "National" section. She doesn't ignore major news stories, but rather gives them a local twist. How will that big story impact the small community?
Instead of making the size of the physical newspaper smaller, rather than showing 20 minutes of commercials in a 30-minute newscast, cut back on your syndication and licensing costs. Spend more on local reporters and less on wire reports.
Play to your (local) strengths.