Here’s what we see for community news coverage in 2015:
“As print-driven journalism fades, robust coverage of communities and the issues that drive life in those areas suffers. General news coverage provided by dominant media outlets fades. And that encourages upstart media outlets to fill the coverage gaps…”
The big chains – Gannett, News Corp., Tribune, Scripps-Howard, etc. – have separated their newspaper divisions from more profitable divisions, like broadcast. That means these newspapers have to stand on their own. And with print-advertising income still a tough road, and digital-advertising revenues increasing, (but at a slower rate than hoped), there’s no question the biggies will continue to cut expenses and consolidate operations.
One big causality of this trend line is beat reporting. Your local newspaper simply no longer has the resources to dedicate reporters to specific beats – school districts, town governments, government/politics, health care, the elderly and many others. Covering those essential topics with freelancers and user-submitted content, or crowd-sourcing their way to a story line, fall short of meeting community needs.
That creates coverage gaps that upstart media outlets can address. Family-owned newspapers, satisfied with a more conservative profit margin than big chains will accept, can capitalize as well, said Trends Research Institute media analyst Bill Ostendorf, founder and president of Creative Circle Media in East Providence, RI.
“There is opportunity for entrepreneurial- and community-minded individuals and groups to form media outlets that address the news-coverage gaps left by severely downsized newspapers,” said Ostendorf. “And existing family operations can build on their brand and reinforce their community-service role in this climate.”
Covering local education, environmental issues, politics and health care are particularly ripe areas to target.