REPORT: Small-market newspapers in the digital age

Local Newspaper - Bray People by William Murphy, licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

During the past decade, the fortunes of the newspaper industry changed dramatically, write Christopher Ali, of University of Virginia, and Damian Radcliffe, of University of Oregon. So far, in studying these developments, the researchers have focused on large national newspapers. But how are small-market newspapers responding to digital disruption? How can they best prepare for the future?

The report is based on interviews with fifty-three experts from across the publishing industry, academia, and foundations.

These seven key themes emerged from the conversations and the analysis:

  1. Overgeneralization about the newspaper sector loses important perspectives from smaller outlets.
  2. While local outlets face the same challenges associated with their larger counterparts, they’ve experienced notable resilience thanks to, for example, exclusive content.
  3. Many local newspapers have had more time to prepare for digital disruption than their larger counterparts.
  4. The increasing homogeneity of the consumer experience is reshaping local advertising markets.
  5. Financial survival is dependent on income diversification.
  6. Each local news outlet needs to define the right financial and content mix for itself.
  7. The sector needs to change its “doom and gloom” narrative. The study notes there is cause for optimism.

The full report is available here for free. Both authors are also fellows of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

Picture: Local Newspaper – Bray People by William Murphy, licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

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