In the months since the November election, we’ve seen a huge nationwide uptick in digital newspaper subscriptions, with the NY Times and the Washington Post leading the way. But while national newspaper brands are thriving, local news is different. Consider the story of our own KOMO news, forced to create content to appease its new national owners, the right-wing Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
Ben Thompson, one of my favorite tech writers, argues that the traditional newspaper model – a bundle of comics and Ann Landers and sports and local news – is obsolete in the internet era. The future of local news is a small, subscription-powered outlet with a distinct niche:
A sustainable local news publication will be fundamentally different: a minimal rundown of the news of the day, with a small number of in-depth articles a week featuring real in-depth reporting, with the occasional feature or investigative report. After all, it’s not like it is hard to find content to read on the Internet: what people will pay for is quality content about things they care about (and the fact that people care about their cities will be these publications’ greatest advantage).
That’s exactly what we’re trying to build here at STB. I’ve been a blogger since 2003 and a long-time believer in the power of the internet to inform and entertain us. The glorious future isn’t here yet, and local papers like the Seattle Times still have resources that dwarf even the biggest local Internet pubs (which is why I subscribe, editorial page be damned). But the only way we’re going to get there is if organizations like ours continue to search for new revenue streams and fund new reporting methods.
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