I recently had a chance to sit down with an editor from a local newspaper site –
not a major daily, but something closer to a free weekly that ends up on your
doorstep – to discuss their web strategies. It was interesting to find out about
the challenges they face. I’ve outlined a few of those challenges with some
1. Nobody reads their website. I believe
this is largely due to their publishing cycle. They tend to hold news for their
print editions and end up getting scooped on their own stories by dailies or
local bloggers. By the time they publish to their site, they’re publishing old
2. Local advertisers aren’t ready for the
web. The biggest problem I see here is the poor quality of local
business’ web sites. If my site represented my business as poorly as many local
businesses web sites do, I wouldn’t want to drive traffic to it either. This is
a problem for local newspapers trying to tap the local online advertising
market, but it’s largely out of their hands at this point. One solution would be
to provide micro-sites to businesses that are higher quality than their own
sites, or to create online presences for businesses who don’t already have one.
This could be effective for many of the home services advertised at the local
level, like roofing, plumbing, and other contract work.
3. Nobody comments on their stories. This
goes back to #1. Bloggers are the people most likely to comment on news stories,
but they’re also news hounds, so if you’re not first with a story, they’re
probably not going to comment on it unless it offers a new perspective on the
4. They’re not engaged in the local online
community. Many, if not most, of the writers for local papers are
freelancers so they don’t define themselves as writers for any particular paper.
Without additional ownership in the product, they’re less likely to interact
with other locals as representatives of the paper they write for.
5. They don’t publish valuable online
resources. Where are the directories of local businesses? Of advertisers?
Of books written about the area the newspaper covers? The photo galleries? They
should become the go-to place for this type of content in their region.
6. They don’t publish an events calendar.
Another area where they could differentiate themselves.
7. They don’t publish local sports scores.
People LOVE to read their name in the paper. And they REALLY love to read their
children’s names in the paper. Start publishing recreational soccer, t-ball,
swimming, softball and other sports scores.
A popular push-back to stuff like this is, “We don’t have the time or resources
to do it.” However, it’s really a case of changing your workflow rather than
adding additional work.