A recent report had mixed emotions about the future of community news. So should publishers despair, or is there promise of sunlight behind the lowering clouds? We spoke with Nic Newman, digital strategist at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and author of the report, to find out more.
Is the outlook for local digital news as gloomy as a spate of recent reports indicates? Or are the forecasters looking in the rear-view mirror? We spoke recently with Rusty Coats, executive director of the digitally focused Local Media Consortium, about why the prognosis for local media might not be as bad is it seems.
Two years ago, Aol’s sale of Patch to Hale Global prompted a number of the company’s former editors to found their own independent sites. Michael Dinan, who had held major Patch posts in suburban Connecticut, was one of them. In this Q & A, we see how he and NewCanaanite.com are faring.
There are plenty of bad prognostications about the future of the community news business out there. But if you look at what is actually happening company by company, site by site, the view is not universally grim. There are a number of players making serious progress in digital revenue.
“You can’t always focus on monetization,” says 30A’s Mike Ragsdale. “You have to focus on what’s good for the community and for your audience. In my experience, if you do that, the money will eventually follow. Put others first, and they’ll inevitably support you.”
Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a barrage of ads for storage centers in St. Louis despite the fact that I live in South Carolina. I’m also seeing ads reminding me to “finish your trademark” event though I’m not interested in trademarking anything. I asked experts about why mis-targeted (and wasteful) ads like these persist, and what the ad industry is doing about them.
Overall, 78% of the 96 sites in the closely watched survey of independent news sites reported revenue increases in 2015, with 13% saying they doubled revenue and close to a third reporting gains of 50%.
Up until now, most digital ad targeting has focused on marrying the right ad with the individual user. But that kind of targeting can be hit or miss. This new partnership will try and connect the right kind of ad messages to the right editorial content across Lee’s 20 million monthly visitors.
What if local newspapers, instead of chasing after ever-bigger traffic numbers via platforms like Facebook, cultivated fewer but more receptive users — the kind that would be more attentive to advertising messages, especially if the messages had less blare and more flair. Could going deeper on community coverage result in higher CPMs?
“We built an online community newspaper the old-fashioned way — with daily deadlines, plenty of shoe leather and a grueling schedule of personally attending dozens of community events every month,” publisher James Macpherson says about his 12-year-old local news site.