Over the last couple decades local newspapers have taken a huge hit. They were lumped in with the slaughtering of the newsrooms across the globe and any surviving papers are just hanging on by a thread.
Digital media is a replacement for receiving news on a printed sheet of paper for obvious reasons. News breaks faster, stories can be easily shared and production is cheaper.
Big newsrooms have never done a very good job at covering smaller communities filled with average people just hanging out in their hometown. Many people outside of major cities actively dislike the major news networks because it doesn’t speak to them, the issues they face and doesn’t connect in any real way. Local news is where they get the info they need.
Local journalism is connected to communities in a way that national news just can’t be.
- Local reporters go after issues that don’t get covered in the mainstream media
- Local readers depend on it “38% of local news site visitors do not visit any national news sites”
- Events & Culture coverage that is relevant to smaller cities and towns
- Supporting local small businesses through storytelling
- Accessible advertising opportunities for small businesses who need awareness within the community, not nationally
There are a few reasons why Substack is primed to take on Local News:
- You don’t need a big audience to make decent money
- Writers are essentially reporting to readers (as the ones who are paying), not publishers and not advertisers. The editorial independence can focus on serving the community.
- Subscription model works for local news
Where I’m a bit skeptical
There’s more to creating a thriving local news ecosystem than a few reporters and a make payment button. Talented journalists need to deem this as a worthwhile way to make a living – that means access to the tools and resources they need when they need them.
What the future of Local News could look like
Allow writers across different categories collaborate on a local publication and share the profits. The team could look something like this: Editor to choose stories, streamline voice and put it all together. Feature reporters for bigger stories that take longer to cover, Category Experts to write about things like sports, arts & culture, food & drink, politics, etc. Events section to highlight what’s going on in the community for the next week. The backend could be a dashboard that displays the editorial calendar, assigns stories and tracks revenue.
From the readers’ perspective, they pay one price and get access to different types of content from different writers all with a local lens that is hyper focused on what matters to them.
Some might even pay for a printed version, but let’s not get carried away.