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Wicked Local to become Wicked Not So Local
By adamg on Wed, 02/16/2022 - 11:03pm
Dan Kennedy gets the scoop on Gannett's plans to remove what little local content the chain's weekly newspapers in eastern Massachusetts already have and replace them with "regional" coverage. In other words, what they did with the smushed together Allston/Brighton and West Roxbury/Roslindale weeklies years ago before finally just shutting them completely in December.
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Fewer and fewer readers
Sounds like they have no choice.
When you purchase a news organization and gut it, it seems people will stop reading.
They gut it because they want fewer readers?
Or because fewer people are reading?
If they hired more people the readership would increase?
This is the real problem
Craiglist, Ebay, Facebook, Google, etc. have killed print advertising. The classifieds were where the real money was for the newspapers, but that market vanished 15 or 20 years ago. Most people feel no need to pay for the print version of a neighborhood paper which will let you know about things you read on Facebook or Nextdoor two days ago, even if the quality of information from the paper will be higher.
They started gutting it
because they were not interested in the value of their alleged product, much like what the vulture capitalists have done to places like Boeing. If you want more readers, it seems to me you'd try to improve the value of the product by doing more and better reporting, not less. When you have literally one reporter covering a region, why would anyone pay for that? It's a vicious circle.
Marginal value is the problem
There is value to high-quality journalism, but probably not enough to support print media in niche markets like neighborhood newspapers, particularly if they're only published weekly or a few days a week. The advertising market is gone and not coming back. People aren't interested in reading the paper about the town hall meeting or the fire three streets over if they already read about those events on Nextdoor three days ago. It's akin to why evening newspapers died several decades ago -- they weren't timely in comparison to newscasts or morning papers.
Journalists gotta eat, too, and you're not going to be able to recoup the cost of their salaries with a very small circulation.
If you can't make a profit, become a non-profit
The root problem is that local advertising is dead. The only way local journalism is going to come back is with a non-profit model. If someone put up a good chunk of money to create a quality paper, between subscriptions, a few ads, and donations, a sustainable paper could happen.
Pretty Much My Point
The local outlets were bought then gutted, so we'll never know if there's "value" in high quality local journalism. It's a "we've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas" problem.
In any case, I agree with the commenters who say non-profits seem to be the only answer now, especially since people have been conditioned to get their "news" for "free"