How do you get your news? Google or Yahoo? RSS Feeds? Twitter? Among the industries most changed by social media, according to “social media guru” Brian Solis, are financial services, music and news reporting (Heath, M.) The one that I have been following with the most interest is news reporting – not necessarily because I am all that interested in the news industry – but because as a regular listener to NPR, reader of internet news, and regular reader of my local paper (Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat) the change has impacted the way I get the news.
I have followed the fate of my local paper with some curiosity. Over my last 10 years of readership, I have noticed significant changes. The Monday edition is so thin that it would not cover the bottom of a bird cage (if people still use newspaper for that). Since 2008, the Real Estate section has gotten thinner and thinner. First, of course, it was because no one could sell a house and so the desire to spend money marketing it no sense. Subsequently, the real estate industry has moved online. Clearinghouses such as Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia, along with Craigslist and websites that feature detailed tours of homes have taken the place of the photo and specs listings we used to browse on Saturday morning. Midweek print advertising has also taken a hit. Thursday’s paper used to carry thick, glossy ads from the national retailers in town. Those ads have been replaced with weekly emails to opt-in consumers. No more Old Navy ads in our paper.
And yet, despite these changes, the paper has actually expanded coverage of local events and news. The Tallahassee Democrat appears to be an interesting case study in what is working these days for newspapers. Its website began charging for access to premium content in 2010, but has been able to remain the largest news website in its market, including both charging and free websites (Kulicke). Local politics, crime, sports, and events make up the bulk of the paper, which is exactly what I need, because I can read the NYT, WSJ, USA Today, AP, Reuters, and watch the BBC news feed all on demand. What becomes more complicated is weeding through the Leon County Schools website to figure out what the newest standardized testing change means to me and my elementary-aged children.
Tallahassee’s local paper has fantastic reporters that offer real value to the community by focusing on the information and issues that cannot be gleaned easily from the mainstream, national and international news media. When local news stations began to focus on making news relevant to the local market, the news tended to be edited versions of national news that included a few lines about how a local person was at the event (Tallahassean witnesses Tsunami – story of a local couple on vacation who happened to see a few waves).
Local reporting has matured to the point of being able to understand that providing value to a community is covering the community. This niche reporting is the result of two social media trends. First, the lower cost model of communication through social media outlets creates an expectation of information that is of great relevance to more specialized groups of people. Second, the technology behind social media means that markets are segmented less by geographic location, and more by interest. Local papers can take advantage of both of these trends.
The Tallahassee Democrat offers blogs, twitter feeds, online commentary on stories, breaking news alerts, and is available on mobile devices, tablets, and probably Google’s rumored web-enabled eye glasses (Henn). But as with everything in social media, the innovation is not the technology itself, but the application of the technology. Local papers have a lot to gain from the instant communication of national and international news via social media – they have an audience again.
Heath, M. (2011, October 24). Three Industries Forever Changed by Social Media. Invest Forward, Retrieved May 2, 2012 from http://blog.currensee.com/2011/10/three-industries-forever-changed-by-social-media/.
Henn, S. (2012, February 24). Google’s Goggles: Is the Future Right Before Our Eyes? NPR – All Tech Considered, Retrieved May 4, 2012, from http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2012/02/24/147364732/googles-goggles-is-the-future-right-before-our-eyes
Kulicke, H. (2012, February 9). Case Study: Newspaper Thriving in Tallahassee. Editor & Publisher, Retrieved May 5, 2012, from http://www.editorandpublisher.com/TopStories/Article/Case-Study–Newspaper-Thriving-in-Tallahassee