A newspaper is like a buffet. You go to a buffet, [and] there are dozens and dozens of items [to] choose to eat. But you may find something you don’t like at all.
You may find some items that you like very much… You might put some of these items in a newspaper— like the kinds of foods that you think a patron might enjoy eating—closer to the front where they will see them first…
That evolution is happening today. We’re more cognizant of the idea that you’ve got to have a good mix of stories so that people will nd something they like and then continue to read the paper because of that.
—Lou Brancaccio, Emeritus Editor, Vancouver Columbian (Washington)
Local journalism, like the wider media landscape, has been disrupted by the emergence of new platforms and technologies. This creates both challenges and opportunities for local news providers.
As Dr. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, told a panel at the 2017 International Journalism Festival: “Distribution is no longer connected by transmitter range or how far it’s practical and economical to drive your physical print copies and sell them or where your advertisers want to sell their products.”
The impact of this, Nielsen says, is that “the media economy is no longer tied to space the way it was in the past. Google and Facebook have far greater penetration in almost every local market than any local media organization has, probably greater than they ever had.”
This reality, coupled with “the fact that there’s going to be less money than there was in the past,” is leading some organizations to reconsider their approach to newsgathering, storytelling, and content distribution.
That has meant embracing new approaches to journalism, such as those advocated by organizations like Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network, as well as experimenting with opportunities for storytelling and engagement through platforms like Snapchat and Facebook Live, and the means to tell stories using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Local Journalism in the Pacific Northwest
A number of content producers—in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere—are also doubling down on more traditional outputs, such as podcasts, newsletters, and events, and placing a greater emphasis on these activities.
Establishing and renewing relevance with audiences will be fundamental to the creation of a successful and viable future for local news providers.
Sharon Chan, vice president of innovation, product, and development for the Seattle Times, noted that for her organization, this means focusing on “building that deeper relationship with people and showing that there’s value to having a newspaper, a legacy newspaper.”
It’s a sentiment that’s applicable to digital-only and other legacy providers as well.
As Morgan Holm, senior vice president and chief content officer at OPB (Portland, Oregon)—which reaches “more than 1.5 million people across the Northwest each week through television, radio, online, and via mobile and social platforms”— observes:
You know, Google and Facebook are doing a darn fine job of squeezing out a whole bunch of people already. So we’ve already got a fight on our hands, but there’s still a chance to, you know, get an audience to be aware of your existence there and to see you as a trusted source.
Read about this and more in the full version of the Agora report.