Published on April 4th, 2023
In the modern digital age, local news outlets are one industry that has been hit the hardest. Many local newspapers in recent years have struggled to survive, not only because of the digital age but also the repercussions bought about by the Covid pandemic.
However, the decline of local news outlets has been in decline for years before the pandemic, and if anything, this has only accelerated the decline.
Local news outlets have found keeping up with new online news resources and changing user behavior challenging.
With the arrival of social media and other platforms, users now have so much information at their fingertips, from local and international news to celebrity gossip, baseball odds, and more.
Local news outlets have found attracting and retaining new readers particularly hard. This has led to cost-cutting exercises that have significantly impacted ad revenue, which could be considered the bread and butter of local news outlets.
The cuts have also meant that the quality of news coverage has been impacted. Local communities have found it harder to stay informed about what is happening in their area.
Factors That Have Led to the Struggle of Local News Outlets in the Digital Age
1. The Vicious Circle of Advertising Revenue
The stable business model that led to the success of the newspaper industry is now causing the decline. The inability of local news outlets to evolve and change to new digital trends has forced many local news outlets to close their doors.
Most revenue for newspapers and other media is generated from ad revenue spend, but as online platforms are now capturing more of the advertising spend, local news outlets are struggling.
This is because they cannot provide the same targeting as their online counterparts, so they can’t attract advertising revenue.
Revenue streams currently being created by newspapers, like from online subscription models, are smaller than those generated with traditional advertising and circulation streams.
This is in connection with reduced advertising revenue has resulted in local news outlets losing readers/subscribers. Also, consumers are unwilling to pay for news as they can access content on social media platforms, for instance, for free.
Many journalists have also lost their jobs as local news outlets are forced to cut overheads. However, whilst doing this, these newspapers are still trying to publish quality content to compete with online sources.
Nowadays, more content is lifestyle driven and increasingly focuses on celebrities as interests and behaviors’ change.
This has, however, led to local news outlets being trapped in a vicious cycle where cuts have triggered the further loss of ad revenue.
2. The Audience Has Changed
It used to be that audiences were interested in general interest pieces. Nowadays, with so much information available, readers are more likely to pursue certain writers or informational sources with target searches.
This has caused newspapers as a whole to become almost irrelevant.
Information was once spread only by printing presses or broadcast mechanisms, but thousands of individuals now communicate directly with others via the internet. Users will now rather look for news that aligns with their personal interests.
Local news outlets cannot keep up with this trend and find it harder to retain their readers. Local news outlets can’t offer the niche coverage that online news sources can.
3. Lack of Resources
Local news outlets are smaller and are limited in terms of resources when compared to more prominent news outlets.
This makes it increasingly difficult for them to cover high-profile stories or invest in the technology needed to compete in the digital age.
Not only will they find it harder to keep up with the technological changes, but they will also find retaining high-quality talent harder.
Many journalists now use their own online platforms or prefer working for more prominent outlets, which hampers the quality of news for local outlets.
As the digital age progresses, local news outlets are getting left behind. These smaller news outlets may seem insignificant, but they are essential in local communities looking for news about their area.
Digital news cannot fill the gap that local news outlets have left. Digital platforms focus on areas with a higher population rather than smaller areas. In fact, some areas in the US and even the UK currently don’t have any local news outlets.
Social media and other online platforms have also led to the rise of fake news. As users can now segment and choose their information, online platforms are more inclined to show what they believe users are looking for, including ads that dominate these platforms. However, the quality and trustworthiness of this news are in question.
Local news outlets then still have a place today. Even though they are struggling to survive the digital age, they will need to quickly learn to adapt and evolve to capture the local communities to make them prevalent in today’s digital world.