Even in a globally connected world, people naturally seek to deepen their connections with the community immediately around them. Throughout all the turmoil of recent years in the media business, local publishing has remained resilient compared to other segments of the newspaper business because the local information that is gathered and presented by quality local newspapers is credible, relevant, and not available from other sources. This has enabled local publishers to remain profitable by continuing to attract unique local advertising and charging for their content.
The viability and attractiveness of local publishing is exemplified by the 2012 $344m investment of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway group in 28 local community newspapers in the US:
Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job…..[ ]. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.
(Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report 2012)
But while local newspapers across the world have bucked the trend of declining circulation that has afflicted national newspapers, the local segment has also reached a crucial tipping point. The consideration is no longer whether or not to “go digital”, but how to implement it effectively and profitably with limited resources. Local publishers understand that they need to act now to retain the relevance of their brands as the go-to source for local community information, yet they fear cannibalizing their still-profitable print operations, and are not in a position to carry the extra costs and disruption of creating digital content.