Do the Job Right

Adrastos pointed this out to me last week and I love every word of it: 

What has happened to media revenues in general has happened worst, fastest, and hardest to local publications, newspapers most of all.

This is part of the reason Deb Fallows and I have been reporting on local-journalism innovations (and successes) we’ve seen, such as the Report for America initiative I mentioned in June, and the business model behind the last family-owned daily in MississippiThe Commercial Dispatch in Columbus (and, long before that, the former alt-weekly that has become a leading statewide news source in Vermont, Seven Days, of Burlington).

There’s a few key points here. First, don’t ever give up ownership or control to some outside conglomerate chain bullshit:

Also, like The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi, the paper’s family ownership means that it can spend its modest resources as it chooses. It is not under external-ownership pressure to meet regular profitability targets, which has sent so many small papers into cycles of cutback and decline.

Yup. It’s not so much that being part of a chain will give you more or less money, it’s that it will give you more or less control over what constitutes enough resources to do your job. Shutting down successful profitable operations because they miss quarterly revenue targets, for example, or some other such arbitrary trash.

Quit cutting:

“I think it’s important for newspapers not to keep cutting,”Edward told me at The QT’s office. “If you keep cutting, there’s less and less reason for people to buy the paper. If you want to keep a healthy circulation, you have to make the investment in reporters and providing the news that people can’t find anywhere else.” If there is a “secret” of the paper’s success, he said, it is “that you’re providing information that people can’t find any other place.”

And cover the stuff you need to cover, not the stuff you see other people covering:

“I believe that daily newspapers struggle because they’re so often repeating what’s already been presented, either in social media or on the television news,” Edward said. “But when you have a local newspaper that is presenting news people aren’t going to find anywhere else, I think there will always be a need for that. I think that will allow local newspapers to survive very well.”

You wouldn’t think these would be genius-level insights but you know what I don’t read in here? Any customer-blaming, paradigm-shifting, content-funneling nonsense that implies that what’s working for this small paper isn’t what they should keep doing.