Yup, good article, Mid. Thanks for sharing.
Iowamom, I'm going to share my thoughts on the paywall comment in the event it helps you at some point - I know the nature of your business but not the details.
The newspaper that covers our county via both print and online has held fast to a paid subscription model for probably 4-5 years or so now. But I have some real problems with this. Their coverage of local sports, news, events, etc., has become very poor. Local sports coverage is practically non-existent with them and what is published is usually very dated. They used to post HS and college scores, summaries and pics, show up at many of the games to get the stories, spearhead things like all-county selections, etc., but they do practically none of that now. Most of their content has become links to national and state-wide pieces provided by other media outlets (which i can access directly for free). The local news they do publish can be found on the local TV station websites for free. There is very little value any more. I just refuse to pay. If their coverage was what it used to be, it would be a different story.
Also, even if they did a better job with local coverage, I still think they would have far more success working off of a model supported by advertisement and "subscription for hard copy only" than trying to get people to pay for online content when so much of the same information is available for free. Admittedly, I may not have sufficient insight on that last piece of it.
As a result, they have completely lost their stronghold as the leading source of local news and, aside from one TV station, local sports coverage is now practically non-existent. Seems like they completely shot themselves in the foot.
Cabbagedad, thanks for your thoughts. Not to detour the thread, but I get your points. I ran our corporately owned local print newspaper for 30 years (started while in kindergarten HAH). When my job was eliminated, it left one person in town (the office was closed) covering a county with six school districts. All the bad stuff you cite has happened.
I launched an online only site almost two years ago. We cover one school district in the county's largest city and are focused on that. We decided early on to run the way a traditional community newspaper should. We sell ads, charge for subscriptions and cover the heck out of the community. Only difference is people get us in their email or on their web browser instead of on their porches.
What I've learned is that people will pay for quality. They can access the web site 24/7 and they get a newsletter every morning at 5:30, with coverage of the latest local news (today, new pediatric dentist opened, plans for this weekend's in person graduation and a group celebrating ham radio weekend), plus obituaries, police and sheriffs reports for the week and a calendar of events for the day. And a localized weather report.
My husband and I do primary coverage, but I also have four freelancers who contribute a lot, including a former sports writer for the statewide daily paper who covers big events like state tournaments, sports seasons starting after a pandemic, etc., but he covers only our teams. It's amazing stuff that people haven't seen for years.
We just got a grant we are going to use to hire someone to start covering two rural school districts around us. They'll have their own web site and weekly newsletter (rather than daily) just because they're tiny.
I used a lot of words to say this — we're doing news the way I think it should be done. And we're making enough money to keep ourselves in wine and our kids in college, which is really all we can ask for.
Now I have to go and post the notice of a lost dog -- once people start sending us pictures of their oversize vegetables, I'll know we really have arrived as THE local news source!!
Again, sorry to derail a bit, but am just super proud of what we are doing and hopeful that we're finding a template that others can follow and that will serve readers well.