Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
In the new digital age, news publishers are working tirelessly to identify ways they can stay relevant in today’s fast-paced digital world. It has been a challenge, only because print production has been the bread and butter for many of the struggling outlets. Many of them have adapted well to the technological climate, while others are still pushing hard for advertisers to secure display ads in their print products.
Growing up, I was always enamored by the newspaper and radio broadcasting. I would read the newspaper and record myself on cassette tape as if I were reporting the news on the radio. It brought so much joy and fulfillment for me, that I wanted to go into the field of journalism. Back then, the world of newsprint was a primary source of news and information for so many, thus the demand for journalists and printing presses, and on-air personalities was extremely high.
Over the course of the last few decades, that climate has shifted. We saw the birth and boom of bloggers. If you would have started a blog 15 years ago, today you could be bringing in an extensive amount of passive income through ad revenue.
Many decided they would become citizen journalists and write stories that were important to them and their communities. These individuals have built a reputation in their spheres of influence so much so that people would rather subscribe to their platforms than reputable news outlets in their communities.
So how can local news outlets ensure their position as a primary source of news and information in a world that is swiftly changing due to digital consumption? Here are a few thoughts on how we can shift the focus and keep print in circulation.
Connect with the community that you are covering.
News organizations should have activities that will engage their journalists, staff, etc., with the community they are covering. Going to community-based organization events that have a firsthand view of what is taking place on the ground will leave a significant imprint on the minds and hearts of the community. Instead of the reporter simply going out to capture quotes, photos and a feel-good story, people remember them aiding their local communities, like helping give out backpacks during that year’s back-to-school drive.
Advocate for newsprint to stay in circulation.
Many may think newsprint is not important in the future; however, I believe it is. Newsprint offers a permanent stamp in history because once it has come off the printing press, you can’t go back and change the story. Digital is vastly different due to the fact that any story can be changed no matter how much time has gone by. Luckily there are backup servers that can bring up past stories, allowing you to do a fact check on the content. With so much disinformation and misinformation circulating on the web, you want concrete evidence that a news story covered true and accurately the events that took place during that time.
Maintain your adjudication.
As a news outlet, it is important to become adjudicated in your city or county. This step in the validation process is important if you want to be recognized as a legit outlet covering news and information in your community. Digitally speaking, you have to be added to a couple of different indexes on the web, such as Facebook and Google. But once you have been validated as a true news organization, you are perceived as more reputable and reliable when people are sourcing your outlet as the resource. Adjudication also allows for your outlet to serve your community through legal publications, thus generating a stream of revenue for your outlet.
Ensure you have an online presence.
Learning to be nimble in this space is definitely a sure way to position yourself to be seen as a reliable source of news and information. Finding the balance between print media and digital content is key to reaching your audiences in your community. I remember when I was directing a communications team, we iterated that if you don’t have an online presence, your organization doesn’t really exist. It is, unfortunately, true because readers want to be able to read your outlet/content from anywhere if they are not engaged with your print media or don’t have access to it.
Consider building your advertising as packages.
If your bread and butter have been from the revenue of display print ads, it is time to step your game up and provide digital real estate for your clients. I know that the CPM, inventory and impressions language may be daunting or confusing, but you have a prime opportunity to build into your advertising pricing digital placements as added value and still place display ads in your broadsheets and tabloids. Make the packaging attractive to your clients so they would want to place advertisements with your outlet.
The unfortunate and grim reality of newsprint is that it is slowly fading away, much like radio broadcasting. We can keep these avenues alive by advocating for their importance in our society by engaging with outlets that still offer this platform of news and information. We also have to work together to ensure that reputable news organizations remain operable and relevant, and dispel fake news that comes from overnight pop-up blogs that come out under the guise of delivering breaking news and information.