The Golden Age of Journalism

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Earlier this year we lost the great New York Times media writer David Carr. His regular column, The Media Equation, was always a must read for me. His insights were spot on and his writing style was entertaining. A few weeks ago, as I was driving, NPR was playing snippets of past interviews with Mr. Carr and one of them stuck with me.

Carr stated that we are now entering “the golden age of journalism.” This is despite much of the doom and gloom that has whacked the traditional media business in the head.

Carr went on to say that most of the major, big city newspapers (NY Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, etc.) have turned the corner, are providing digital-friendly content and have figured out how to generate revenue in this new model via native advertising, ad networks, paywalls and other income generators.

Also, he stated that: “The future looks fairly bright for smaller newspapers that are intimately connected with their communities,” Carr went on to say that if someone wanted to buy a newspaper company, the best way to figure out which one to buy would be to ask whether “a picture of some kid’s football team would make it to the front page.” If the answer was yes, then the paper would likely do well because the connection between a newspaper and the lives of small town residents tightly knit.

However, things are not at all rosy for the publishers in the mid-sized metro markets (e.g. Milwaukee, Cleveland, Des Moines, Orlando, etc.). Carr put it bluntly: “the whole middle of the newspaper business is just gone.”

How do these papers turn things around and once again prosper and thrive?

Transition revenue models to digital.
These mid-market papers have significant assets that they can leverage. They have the trust of their community, as most residents turn to them when they want reliable, local information. Also, their websites generate a sizable amount of traffic.

Publishers can turn these two assets, trust and traffic, into revenue. How? By creating advertising packages that are both relevant to their readers and that generate business for local businesses.

Part of this helping local merchants fight back against what has arguably been their biggest challenge – the giant mega-retailers such as WalMart, Amazon.com and others.

By creating local, eCommerce Marketplaces, publishers create a win:win product. A program that both generates ad revenue for the publisher and helps local businesses compete against the big guys.

Middle market newspapers and their local businesses are all in it together. Their community needs both to be vibrant and successful. Also, I believe that the local residents would much rather support local businesses and keep their money in the community.

Publishers have the power to create these thriving and sustainable ecosystems. By embracing digital, native and eCommerce, this segment of the market can also take part in Carr’s “golden age of journalism.”