The verdict is in: local news publishers do need Facebook, Google and other giant distribution platforms. But only to get the first part of the job done. Whether you’re a self-funded entrepreneurial pure-play publisher or a corporate chain of daily newspapers, you can’t, on your own, generate all the traffic that the platforms deliver to your site.
A recent Innovation Mission to San Francisco/Silicon Valley drew 13 senior executives in the news business (newspapers, TV, radio and research and development). It was built around three themes: audience engagement, platform strategies and using human-centered “design thinking” to solve thorny problems that bedevil most news providers.
Political ad spending totaling $1.9 billion will pour into the digital space, most of it on the local level, Borrell Associates estimates in its 2018 forecast. But daily newspapers and local news “pure-plays” will have to fight hard for their share against Facebook, Google and the other digital platforms.
Eight and a half years after launching his hyperlocal news site The Batavian, in upstate New York, Howard Owens is looking at growing his base company, Album Corp., beyond Batavia to multiple locations. His plan for expansion is driven by a homemade mobile app that he’s experimenting with for the site.
Questions are being raised about whether news publishers should keep expanding their relationships with Google and Facebook, and even whether they should pull out altogether. But you don’t hear that talk from the Local Media Consortium, which represents more than 70 newspaper, broadcasting and other local media companies.
Among the most hated by both desktop and mobile users are pop-ups, auto-play videos with sound and large sticky ads. The Coalition for Better Ads, which includes many members of the ad industry, trade associations and a few news publishers, is developing new standards to give users a better experience when they encounter an ad message.
Tony Haile, until recently the longtime CEO of the highly regarded online-analytics site Chartbeat, is planning to launch a new subscription site that doesn’t try to convert readers from free to paid. He calls it Scroll, and it has $3 million in seed money from formidable publishers including the New York Times, News Corp and Axel Springer.