Rescuing the News Industry

Originally published at www.bloom.li on March 25, 2015.

Existing methods for news distribution, how they fail to serve news efficiently, and how location-based services can help stabilize the news industry in the digital age.

It’s a clean cut fact that the traditional newspaper is on its way out. Although the last newspaper is predicted to be printed in 2043, the entire news industry is seeing a strong change that may prove the date to be much sooner. As chaotic as this may sound, it should be understood as a positive transition for the industry rather than an end.

We’ve focused this article specifically on existing methods for news distribution, how they fail to serve news efficiently, and how location-based services can help stabilize the news industry in the digital age.

Overview: The current newspaper economy

As editor David Schwartz put it, “we read what writers write not what newspapers print”, meaning there will always be a demand for news but how we read it is bound to change. The newspaper is simply a method for news distribution and, therefore, stating that it’s in decline only means a more efficient method is climbing the ladder. This method is digital, without a doubt, as readership gradually merges online — we should all know this by now.

However, the business transition to digital is currently filled with uncertainties since many publishers struggle to reach financial stability. Publishers have experimented with digital by building their own websites and mobile apps, engaging on social media, and publishing on e-readers but have not yet found a financial gain strong enough to solely support their company. The existing, small revenue stream that printed newspapers bring helps keep businesses afloat, but it’s just a matter of time before readers and advertisers ditch print altogether.

What are publishers currently doing to cut costs to experiment more on digital?

  1. Reducing staff
  2. Outsourcing printing
  3. Reducing print frequency

In a PEJ report on digital revenue, executives predicted that in five years many newspapers would print only on Sundays, or perhaps two or three days a week.

Problem: The difficulty of digital

I think we can safely say that the more readership an article gets, the more revenue it will generate — no matter if that revenue comes from advertising, subscriptions, or other methods. If digital readership for each individual publisher was at a point that promised stable revenue, then publishers would be doing backstrokes in the digital sea but the industry isn’t there yet.

Small, community-focused publishers make up a majority of newspapers — there’s a paper for just about every city in the world. The main problem is that there’s a lot of competition in the digital world due to larger companies attracting a huge chunk of the readership. Community publishers may not have a large budget or a big team, but they do have a unique, local value in their content that offers them a competitive advantage.

According to a Pew Research Center study, “nearly nine-in-ten residents follow local news closely — and about half do so very closely.” This proves that the demand for community news surpasses that of national and international news. According to Bloom’s recent study, 98.2% of news published in community-focused newspapers discuss topics happening within their own community. So community-focused publishers are currently writing the content, but readers are, perhaps, finding content more easily accessible from larger publishers or other sources. Therefore, the connection between the local publisher and local reader seems to have a missing link.

Solution: How should technology be improved to ease the distribution of local news?

This missing link is indeed a lack of technology. In order to reach maximum results, technology needs to focus on making local news more accessible. Putting news on a website or social network can only go so far and doesn’t necessarily mean it reaches its most-demanding, local readers.

Bloom’s online platform was built specifically to improve the distribution of local news. Our mission is to help publishers deliver news directly to readers who are most affected by its location.

Pros and Cons of technology currently being used for news

Hyperlocal news websites

Pros: These community websites do serve news specifically to their community

Cons: Lack accessibility since it may be difficult to find their website, limited subscription options, and it usually only benefits one region per website

Social media: Facebook and Twitter

Pros: Facebook and Twitter have a large amount of users and features to monetize and market news content.

Cons: It is not location-based and cannot reach users who are within a specific geographic region. Each page is limited to a follower list.

Overall, hyperlocal and social networking websites are very useful for all types of businesses but lack core features that are needed for local news. The location aspects of Bloom focus on bringing more relevant and effective readership to the publisher’s content. Putting news on a map and delivering to readers within its location is something that no other service is providing today. It eliminates the need for a user to subscribe to a website and also eliminates the communication gap by notifying local users within seconds after being published.

Additionally, being a platform specifically for journalism, Bloom is able to serve the needs of news publishers and consumers in much more detail. Providing geographic information through plugins, enhancing the publisher’s news pages, and delivering directly into the hands of local readers are features only provided on Bloom.

Conclusion: What’s possible?

Overall, location-based technology that can deliver content in real-time is bound to help transition news from print to digital. Think of it as bringing the newspaper online, but still having direct contact with the community who would have picked it up from the newsstand.

According to Bloom’s recent study, 85% of news is dependent on geographic information and can be used to target local readers. Bloom and other location-based services will be a major factor with the perspective of how news is written and read around the world. If the popularity of location-based services continues to grow, it would be vital for journalists to recognize the geography of their writing as a marketing opportunity.

We hope this explanation was helpful to you as a publisher or reader and encourage you to contact Bloom with any questions or ideas you have about our efforts.


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