Darrell Royal was famous for his formula for winning football: You gotta dance with the one what brung you. In football, you have to keep doing what made you good in the first place. If you were undefeated by running the ball, you keep running it in the playoffs.
And that concept works for newspapers, too.
The doom-and-gloom crowd always focus on the “paper” part of the newspaper compound. Paper is a dying medium, they say. And they may be right. But if we’re going to succeed, we have to focus on the first part of that compound – the one what brung us. And that is news.
Newspapers aren’t popular because they’re printed on paper. They grew to popularity because they gave people the news they wanted. Local events. Names. Faces. Calendars. Sports. Opinion. Pictures. Information.
And guess what? Scholarly research confirms what we have always known. A Northwestern University study last year showed that regular reader habit and strong coverage of local news were the key factors in keeping subscribers. But they wondered … was that also true for small news outlets?
So they did a follow-up study on 12 small news outlets. Not surprisingly, they found that the same local news emphasis that causes people to read metros also sends them to your newspaper.
One of the things they found was that the more frequently subscribers connect with you, the more likely they are to hold on to their subscription. Large newspapers realize that even publishing daily isn’t enough, so they have rolled out a number of newsletters to make their brand more valuable for readers.
The takeaway for community newspapers: We have a hot commodity – news. But we can’t just deliver that on paper once a week. We have to be the go-to medium for news in the community every day. At TCCJ, we used to say that you could be a weekly in print but you had to be a daily online. That seems short-sighted now. We can’t just put news up daily on our website – we have to use social media and newsletters to get that news in front of our readers.
Websites assume that readers come to them. But social media and newsletters don’t wait for readers to come to them – they go to the readers.
We still have a commodity readers want. We just have to get the news – branded with our name – in front of readers, and do it more often.