Local newspapers have clearly lost a great deal of value and relevance, as most of this content is available on the internet for fee, unless you are the WSJ.com or NYT.com.
Why is it that local community magazines have thrived both in terms of providing relevant content to local readers and for advertisers who need to reach these readers in a define geographic area? Why have so many new local magazines been launched over the past several years, as newspaper and print have declined.
That's a great question. I can offer this one insight: Local communities are the Land That Big Media Forgot. In my years at the Chicago Tribune, I covered a lot of local beats and saw two things--first, that the Trib's reporters were platooned in and out usually after 1-2 years; and second, the Tribune and other media outlets soon pulled up stakes and moved on for good when the big profits didn't ensue.
As a managing editor at AOL, I saw the launch of a very ambitious program for local media coverage called Patch. A lot of money was thrown into it, but almost nothing was made from it and it too has all but folded.
So the crux of the matter is this: Journalism makes money. It has always been that way, and should be. But journalism is also a service. In the case of local magazines and media, there is a service aspect that knits the members of a community together.
But financially, it can be a great bet as well. There will be zero competition from big media outlets, an immediate value among members of the community who want to stay up on the happenings no one else covers--and finally, a provided sense of connection that's vital for people glued to their smartphones so often.
Plus, some of this just eludes the grasp of an MBA or media guru. Parents never get tired of seeing their son/daughter's school award covered in a local outlet, or reading the column by one of the town's most beloved merchant/raconteurs. We don't have a lot of examples of community fabric left in America anymore. I'd argue that these local community magazines serve that unmet need.
People are bombarded with content, emails, and information every single day, however, still need or want information quickly, especially in areas where there is continued interest. For example, I spend my day writing books, memoirs and novels, and when I am not writing, I enjoy teaching yoga.
One of my favorite magazines to read is Yoga Journal that is available online where I can get information quickly and helps keep my practice fresh with new poses to try or a new flow series, for example. The same is true for local community magazines that keep me informed about issues that might affect my family or events in the area that we would like to attend.
Lou Carlozo's last two paragraphs sums it up for me. There is nothing special about pictures and stories on the web. Anybody can toss up photos of their kids.
A few more points:
Local/Neighborhood newspapers and magazines don't have the money for fancy websites and constant updating. The sites are usually basic and unattractive.
Local news is personal. You want to escape the digital nest, sit back, and soak in local happenings. This passive experience also allows for more effective advertising.
Digital target marketing annoys and upsets people. It's an invasion of privacy. A local magazine or newspaper showing up in your mailbox or stacked at the entrance of a local store or restaurant is not an invasion of privacy. They are welcomed.
In my mind, the act of sitting and reading a printed newspaper or magazine is a relaxing ritual. Time slows down for me. I can think more openly as I don't feel bombarded as I do with social media. It is easier to read a complete article as it is right in front of me, no scrolling endlessly on my phone. I am able to digest content with greater clarity and I remember what I've read more easily. Perhaps this is because that's how I grew up consuming media, so it is a comfort zone in a sense. It's how my mind has been trained to consume information. I look forward to reading the Sunday morning newspaper, it's relaxation time for me, and productive time. I will be saddened for sure if printed media ultimately goes the way of the dinosaur. But my hope is that printed books will survive, so my outlet will be there. As much as I also consume digital media, I find printed media to be the preferable choice, at least for me.
The local market is a niche market that is untapped. Popular innovations have focussed on ideas that are global in scale. The human need to know what is happening around the corner in neighborhood will continue to exist. Facebook, Nextdoor etc have tried to focus on this but the space for traditional media still exists.People want authentic news and not crowdsourced or opinions. Local newspapers help provide that. It is true for local TV channels too. Local TV channels are also thriving and continue to.
Maybe it is the time for the traditional print media to change. The world is changing so does the local newspaper. When I was a graphic design student in Art Center, print track was the hottest track. After so many years passed by, all the students changed to UX / UI track, not many people want to do print design. To be honest, I think print media can change to "preserve premiere knowledge and design" - which is preserving something that you think is the most important or the best articles & design... for people to put on their book shelves for years.
Now we can pretty much access to any content and create anything on our social media platforms. Social medias allow us to create our own contents. It means the freedom of speech but also means that the quality of content might not be as good as it was used to be.
Local newspaper can change its style to more niche audience. It can still maintain some traditional sections but - add more local flavor and creativities into it - such as featuring local artists, music events... Maybe focus on quality rather than quantity, write something unique about local news, integrate some high technology such as AR in newspaper for ads. For example, after scanning the QR code on the local newspaper, you can see AR ads in your smartphone. It will add another layer to it and people will love it:)