$500/year for a local newspaper is roughly $10/week.
Not bad, but then we scoff at paying $10/month for an online publication.
When media went digital, everything became free. Then everyone realized that model doesn’t sustain itself without advertisements. And ads don’t work until you have a large quantity of clicks, thus we see consolidation and elimination of small journalism.
Was it possible for media to stay paid throughout the jump to digital?
Probably not. Paid outlets would have been disrupted by the free outlets that were big enough to work on an ad-supported model. The economies of scale were there for large players to survive.
Small outlets need a new model. Something in between $500/year for a physical paper to show up on your doorstep and seeing an ad on the side of your article. Is it paid online subscriptions? Maybe. Is it paid premium content? Maybe. What I think we’ll see is a return to community. You pay for community belonging.
When the local paper shows up at your house, you’re a member of the community. When you log-on to your local outlet, it doesn’t feel quite as cozy and local anymore.
A shift needs to happen and we can’t be sure what it will be. More outlets will close. More outlets will charge. A select few will figure something out. They will find a way to make money and satisfy their audience better than ever before. They’ll do it by investing in connection, trust and community.