The obituary of newspapers has already written as major newspapers like the Detroit Free Press are laying off dozens of staff members (including their entire photo department). However, surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) thousands of papers across the country are flourishing!
You heard it! Unlike the once mighty, daily newspapers in big cities, small-town newspapers are still holding their own and in many cases are still lucrative.
USC journalism professor Judy Muller points out that “thousands of newspapers are not just surviving but thriving.” They are thriving by practicing “Hyper-localism” and providing a “…steady stream of news that readers can only get from that publication — the births, deaths, crimes, sports and local shenanigans that only matter to the 5,000 or so souls in their circulation area.”
Of course, television news and newspapers have always tried to find a local angle on even the most remote major news story.
During the war in Iraq, they featured local service people or their families. When Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, they featured local people who took the day off to watch on TV, if not someone who happened to be in England at the time. And so on. You get the picture.
But this hyper-localism is much more than that. It is reporting on local news that directly affects its readers… and that is not covered anywhere else. The small-town newspaper fills this void left by national television news and online wire services.
“And what of the Internet threat?” Muller points out that “many of these small-town editors have learned a lesson from watching their big-city counterparts: Don’t give it away.”
In fact, that is exactly what successful papers like the Ellensburg (WA) Daily Record are doing. This 6,000 daily circulation publication offers limited “free” content and then requires readers to subscribe.
According to Daily Record staff photojournalist Brian Myrick (a former colleague of mine from the Daytona Beach News Journal), not only is this model working very well for the Daily Record, but other newspapers in the area are quickly following suit.
As Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Well let’s hope the same is true about the newspaper industry!