Home > Uncategorized > Newspapers: The End of Dailies

Newspapers: The End of Dailies

We’re seeing obits for the lowly newspaper now, most notably at ValleyWag and other places, especially since the recently-announced sale of all but three of its newspaper holdings.

The Austin American-Statesman, to which I am a daily subscriber, is among the papers included in the sale.  It has 925 employees and a circulation of 150,000.  I didn’t realize until reading the articles for this blog post how low those numbers are.  For the 16th largest city in America, having only 150,000 copies of the local newspaper in readers’ hands is shockingly low.  Even one of my favorite political Web sites, Wonkette, gets 88,000 unique visitors every day.  My daily routine of walking to the curb to pick up the newspaper to see the “news of the day” is quickly becoming an anachronism in the 21st century.

But rather than pile on, I’d like to propose a scenario for what local news can become, using my local market as an example.

Right now, The Dallas Morning News (owned by Belo) and Houston Chronicle (owned by Hearst) still have Austin bureaus.  The old-school logic they use is that to be a “real” newspaper, you need to have people on your payroll stationed in various markets.  But given the state of the newspaper industry today, that thinking doesn’t make a lot of sense any more; the margins aren’t there, and certainly print circulation isn’t going to increase because of the remote reporter.

So here’s a proposal: break the corporate barriers and antiquated thinking and pool the resources to create a center of news competence for all things Austin, creating news that is syndicated out to other newspapers.  This regional knowledge base could house the expertise for the Longhorns, the Capitol, regional businesses, etc.  This model has to be less expensive than the office space, personnel, etc. required to run discrete news bureaus.

Those reporters could be partially funded by these other newspapers and partially by advertising on a revamped news site for Austin.  Reporters would need to cover the local angle for the outlets they represent (in other words, if the Dallas paper is partially supporting the news center, they are going to want to have a Dallas angle/mention in the story, if it exists).  Covering the Capitol in particular is tricky because of the number of state legislators, but ultimately with some seasoned and savvy reporters, not impossible.  An aggressive, rock-solid group of journalists who write for online media, other local media, sports sites, etc.  could be dedicated to cover Austin in depth.  The focused Austin-only news site could be very powerful, much more so than the sites that are available today for local news.

And that’s just my local market.  Seems reasonable that this thinking could apply to other major markets as well.  Instead of doom/gloom/fear/uncertainly/doubt, the future of local news could be a very exciting place if the right energy is applied to it.

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