Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Local newsrooms can still flourish, compete in digital age

TODD SMITH — Local newsrooms can still flourish, compete in digital age


Since 2000, nearly half of newsroom jobs – more than 20,000 of them – have disappeared. Revenues have plummeted by almost $20 billion.

Newspapers continue to be shuttered, and layoffs are a regular headline.

In telling the story of the changing fortunes of the newspaper industry, the focus has been on large metro and national newspapers. Less attention is given to the small-market newspapers, with a weekly or daily print circulation of under 50,000.

Research from Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism is seeking to spotlight trends of small newspapers – and the future of the newspaper business.

The conversations, which took place in summer of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, suggest there’s a silver lining, as local newspapers seek to refine their diversification of revenues and find new ways to engage with audiences, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Through the study, the center identified several key strategies local newsrooms should consider to renew themselves. Here are the top five:

1. Focus on original reporting. Local newspapers publish work that is seldom replicated elsewhere. This is what local newspapers should focus on; if they provide content readers can’t find anywhere else, local newspapers will be better able to find paying audiences.

2. Own the master narrative of your community. Many people indicated their newsrooms had shrunk in recent years while the demands had grown. Journalists are producing more content, especially for digital channels, than two to three years ago, and working longer hours.

If unique content is most likely to ensure the sustainability of local newspapers, editors must consider whether non-local content is the best use of limited resources.

3. What are the metrics telling you? To what extent does this matter? Newsrooms have access to more data than ever before. Making smart use of data, while challenging, can inform storytelling techniques, improve the user experience, support online revenue strategies and enable publishers to distribute content on third-party platforms.

4. Consider content partnerships. Another strategy for newsrooms with fewer resources and higher pressure is to partner with other news organizations. This approach is one that several local newsrooms are beginning to embrace.

For example, there has been a decade-long collaboration between the Daily Progress and the digitally native Charlottesville Tomorrow in Charlottesville, Va. Nearly a decade later, more than 2,000 stories written by Charlottesville Tomorrow staff have been published in the Progress.

5. Do you have the right mix of structure, staff, and skills? Given the pace of change across the media landscape, small-market newspapers, like all news and media organizations, need to reconsider their staffing and business models.

We use multiple social media sites for news, Pew Report finds

Americans are more likely than ever to get news from multiple social media sites, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

About a quarter of all U.S. adults (26 percent) get news from two or more social media sites, up from 15 percent in 2013 and 18 percent in 2016. But there is considerable variation in the extent to which each site’s news users get news from other sites, and which sites those are.

Facebook claims the largest share of social media news consumers, and its news users are much more likely to rely solely on that site for news. Just under half (45 percent) of U.S. adults use Facebook for news. Half of Facebook’s news users get news from that social media site alone, with just one-in-five relying on three or more sites for news.

By comparison, news users of LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp are particularly likely to get news on multiple social networks: Half or more of their news users get news on three or more social media sites.

In general, sites with a smaller number of news users also tend to have the most overlap with other social media sites for news. However, Reddit stands alone in having a small but more exclusive audience of news users. Only 4 percent of U.S. adults get news from this site, and of these users, just 38 percent use three or more social media sites for news.

Four of the social sites have considerable overlap with Twitter: Roughly a third or more of news users of Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Reddit also get news on Twitter.

Beyond Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, there is less widespread overlap in news use with the other sites.

U.S. adults who get news from social networking sites are more likely to be nonwhite and younger. About half (47 percent) of news consumers who rely on two or more social media sites for news are nonwhite (including Hispanics), compared with about one-fourth (26 percent) of those who use just one site. They are more likely to be under age 50: 77 percent are 18-49 compared with 56 percent of those who use just one site for news. Additionally, they are twice as likely to be ages 18-29 (37 percent vs. 18 percent).

Country Mic: CMA Awards score ratings gold for ABC

The annual CMA Awards scored ratings gold for ABC, more than doubling its nearest competition and earning a three-year high for viewers.

The strong ratings come a year after the awards were badly beaten by Game 7 of the World Series. The three-hour show doubled its ratings from last year.

ABC won all six 30-minute segments for the show, reaching 14.3 million viewers in the key demographic of adults between the ages of 18 and 49. That’s more than double the 6.5 million viewers for CBS.

ABC “delivered the highest rating for any network on any night this season with entertainment programming,” according to a news release from the CMA.

The 51st CMA Awards also fared well on social media. It trended No. 1 on Twitter for the big night.

Facebook and Twitter interactions rose 600 percent to more than 5.2 million.

The blockbuster ratings were driven home by the megawatt superstars who continue to cement country music as a dominant genre. Here are the top winners from this year’s CMA Awards:

» Entertainer of the Year: Garth Brooks

» Album of the Year: “From A Room: Volume 1” — Chris Stapleton (Producers: Dave Cobb, Chris Stapleton)

» Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert

» Male Vocalist of the Year: Chris Stapleton

» Vocal Group of the Year: Little Big Town

» Vocal Duo of the Year: Brothers Osborne

» New Artist of the Year: Jon Pardi

Rock on, country!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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