Local Newspapers Digging in Their Digital Heels

Today’s successful newspapers are taking their stories into digital format, to supplement the printed editions.

This past October, America celebrated the 74th annual National Newspaper Week. In an environment where publishing is changing dramatically and newspapers are seeking to redefine their role in the bigger communications landscape, it’s important to acknowledge that local and regional newspapers continue to play a critical role in local communities around the nation. The traditional business models for newspapers are changing, as publications go digital and compete with a wide variety of homegrown and well-funded online publications. But today’s digital newspapers are digging in their digital heels and taking steps to thrive in the years ahead. Here’s a closer look at what’s working today.

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Continue Offering Local Coverage

The vast majority of competing publications tend to take a national slant or focus specifically on a niche, whether that’s industry news or stories around an interest area like knitting or pet care. But regardless of how national our daily news consumption becomes, readers are still hungry for the latest information affecting their towns. What decisions have town boards made that will affect taxes and home ownership in a given city? What’s happening in the school system and with local sports teams? Are there great new restaurants just down the street? The local newspaper keeps readers informed of the latest happenings in their immediate environments. The more publishers focus on pieces with a local service angle, the better positioned they’ll be for success in their own geographic market.

Make the Human Connection

Readers are interested in learning more about the people that live in their towns. Yet national or even regional publications rarely take the time to profile a local author, a volunteer, or other person of interest. Local publications can stand out by spending time developing their feature well, and focusing on local personalities. It’s a unique differentiator in the space, and highly shareable on channels like social media. There are numerous takes on this story type that work with digital publication, from Q&As to traditional profiles to podcasts and video interviews. Newspapers that find the compelling human angle in their local environment are more likely to make a meaningful connection that keeps readers coming back for more.

Have a Marketing Strategy

Understanding the ebb and flow of web content trends is essential for newspapers that are working to make a mark in the digital world. Promoting a print newspaper in the local community is different than getting traction online. For example, many newspapers find success by drawing their existing subscribers to an online companion version. Advertising revenue streams then allows the newspaper to capture additional income from those views. Marketing strategies that take advantage of the numerous digital marketing opportunities available – everything from social media promotion to partnerships with other publications – are essential to a publication’s longevity.

With National Newspaper Week on everyone’s minds, it’s easy to lament the death of the local newspaper. But one look at the local newspaper scene shows that many publications are thriving by developing digital strategies. Local readers remain hungry for current and geographically relevant stories, and with the right plan it’s possible to capture a piece of that revenue.

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