“Local News Fades Out”
While people still love print, it’s no secret that U.S newspaper circulation has been in a secular decline beginning in 1990. Since the great recession, this decline has been even faster with local readership reported as being down 41-45%, depending upon the population in the circulation areas. Only The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have recorded lesser declines of around 28.7% during the 2012-2018 period.
Two challenges have been to convert readers to online paying customers, and to transition paying advertisers online. The decline in advertising dollars at the local papers has forced major cuts in expenses, and particularly in writing staff. This means Americans are left with less local news from papers, and even Facebook has acknowledged it has difficulty in generating local news, since they have no reporters. Newspaper online advertising is still a small fraction of total revenues for the papers as they struggle to achieve conversions. Online subscriptions have been a big disappointment, except for The Times, The Journal, and The Post, this article reports.
From 2004 to 2018, 1800 local newspapers shut down, leaving half the counties in the U.S. with only 1 newspaper and 200 counties with no paper. The projections are that half of the remaining newspapers will disappear by 2021. And, new media startups are not picking up the declines in newspaper readership.
Local newspapers are being hit hard by the online tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, who are trying to pick up more of their advertising revenue, but are not able to provide local news coverage. Google and Facebook have no reporters on staff, but rely on the news generated by local news sources, and, as we know, those sources are going away!
The loss of local news coverage is being lamented by many in most rural parts of the country who have depended upon such coverage in the past. Local TV stations have helped slow down the loss of local news coverage, but lately, even TV coverage is getting the cost cutting knife.
Some are calling for federal and private support as a way to preserve our democracy’s need for the “power of the press” in local reporting. In recent years, foundations have given over $80 million in grants to support local and state non-profit news organizations, but that amounts to less that 1% of the $8.3 billion in revenue newspapers lost during this time, according to a study by the Sorenstein Center and Northeastern University. Too little too late!
What does this mean for Coffee News, a local print advertising publication, with no local news reporting except for the What’s Happening section used for the announcement of local civic, charitable and non-profit events in the near future?
- As long as local people continue to go out to eat, we will have a ready-made audience. Local people still love to read and have been for as long as they were kids reading the sides of cereal boxes while enjoying breakfast.
- The demand for local, small business ads will increase now that Coffee News is one of the few remaining print publications. We have a niche that can only grow larger as newspapers and other media fade away.
- Local TV stations will try to pick up more of the small business ads, but they cannot afford to devote sales staff to this low margin sale. TV production is a lot more expensive than creating a Coffee News ad. The cost of ad changes may result in many frustrated small business advertisers. Coffee News has a real cost advantage in this arena.
- TV stations offer a huge coverage area that is far broader than the small business owner needs or is willing to pay for every week. Coffee News offers high frequency ad concentration where 80% of customers live.
- We now know that print drives digital! People love print. Most digital advertising on the local level for small businesses comes from having a local web page. For most small businesses, this is all they have. Google ad words and Facebook ads are more competitive with Coffee News, but finding expert staff to keep up with ever-changing algorithms is an increasingly daunting task, particularly for the small business owner. What is the difference between the old Yellow Pages listing, where your listing was grouped with all your competitors, and the new online web page listing where all your local competitors are listed alphabetically with you? In effect, local advertisers are back to square one! Coffee News ads are now more often used to drive customers to the online web page instead of the old Yellow Pages listings.
- Because we stress long-running agreements and are priced as low as digital media, we can afford to personally manage the ad relationship, which digital media cannot do. When was the last time Google or Facebook sales people made a house call? Coffee News advertisers also have a local advertising consultant to assist them with their ads. We can help in many more ways than any of our media competitors.
- Coffee News can build relationships through local networking groups. Rarely, in the past have we seen representatives from other media at networking events, Chamber of Commerce meetings and other community activities. It is obvious, we will see less of them in the future. We need to plan now on how to fill that void and be there for our local small business advertising needs.
We can serve the local small business advertisers better than anyone still in the market! That is our unique selling proposition! People still love print!