Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Can The Patch Hurt Local Newspapers?

For most of us, the national newspapers have been our source of information for world, national, and even region coverage. With the rise of the digital age, subscriptions have dropped as consumers get this same news through online websites, blogs, and tweets. So it seemed that the next opportunity was at the local level, replacing local radio and local papers with hyper local websites. But perhaps that isn't the case just yet. "Some 8,000 weekly papers still hit the front porches and mailboxes in small towns across America every week and, for some reason, they've been left out of the conversation."

In my own area, we have a local website, Maplewood Online, that acts as both a conduit of information on likes and dislikes, where to go, and who to use for a home fix it. We also have the Patch, an AOL owned site that tries hard to be local, but remains dependent on each town's local editor for its quality of local articles. Otherwise it is more a patchwork of web articles from nearby towns. And of course, the local paper, a paid model, that seems a must-have for each home. Local news, town events, an occasional picture of your own child at the pool or school. And frankly, even today, a must read. In fact, its website simply links back to a broader regional web site,

Can The Patch and others beat local newspapers? Certainly the opportunity is there. Local newspapers will be more resilient as they benefit from lower costs, and tons of goodwill. "The business models of these small-town papers are just as intriguing as the local news. In 2010, the National Newspaper Assn. provided some heartening survey statistics: More than three-quarters of respondents said they read most or all of a local newspaper every week. And a full 94% said they paid for their papers." The best success may just come from these same weeklies as they launch companion websites. "Many weeklies, from the Canadian Record in the Texas Panhandle to the Concrete Herald in Washington's Cascade Mountains, are charging for their Web content, and, because readers can't get that news anywhere else, they're willing to pay." The Patch and others may survive in this hyper local world, but it may be a hard battle to win.

1 comment:

  1. Andy, there is certianly a place for hyperlocal reporting by entities like We see them making inroads with their hyperlocal coverage in our market. The Sunday that Hurricane Irene blew through there was a gunman loose in our suburban Philadelphia township who killed four people in the past 24 hours (Mother-in-law, ex-wife, ex-wife's boyfriend, boyfriend's son) and had shot at a few cops. While the manhunt was going on the Philly TV stations were busy showing flooded neighborhoods and streams that flood during every major storm. Frnakly, they could have used file footage and nobody would have been the wiser. The manhunt was relagated to an occaisional mention. Meanwhile, the local continully updated the story on their website and facebook feed until the gunman's body was found in a local wooded area. They updated residents even better than the local township since the township servers were taken out by a storm related power outage.

    Is there a place for Certainly. Whether thay can make the ad or paid model works is another matter.