The Big Hole in Local News: Topical Coverage
Local news reporting is incomplete. Traditional local news follows a well worn formula of crime, accidents, traffic, weather, and sports. The challenge is finding localized news revolving around topics that aren’t well covered by the traditional local news media because they may be too esoteric or narrowcast for the general news consumer. Fourteen specialty topics important to local news consumers include:
- Arts and culture
- Civic sustainability and the sharing economy
- Education and personal development
- Environment, climate change and green tech
- Ethnic and cultural news
- Health and wellness
- Housing and real estate
- Local and artisan food movement
- Local politics
- Social impact
- Solving homelessness, poverty and hunger
- Startups, small business development and entrepreneurship
- Women and girls
Topical news resources don’t exist at the local level because there is no sustaining business model based on monetizing a tiny reader base defined by limited geography and audience of a niche interest. Topical independent news publishers write for national, not local audiences in order to scale the necessary reader traffic for grants and foundation funding, and ad buys.
Curating Topical News for Local News Consumption
Content curation is the only sustainable way to deliver topical news comprehensively to local readers across hundreds of cities. Content is curated into four “buckets” for syndicated delivery to the local reader.
Every niche topic has a set of national influencers who propagate their ideas and messages online. They are must reads. Local readers of topical interest are generally ignorant about who the key writers and thinkers of the field, or its most credible publications. Articles published by national influencers specific to their city will pass these readers by because the traditional local news channels don’t syndicate them to their local audiences. Providing a channel connecting these national publications directly to the local reader is a missing link in independent news syndication.
At the local level, topical news coverage specific to a city can be sparse; many cities don’t even have a news blog dedicated to chronicling city politics (again, likely because such an offering has little revenue potential). Yet, many local news publishers cover city politics as a segment of their news offering, but there is no one resource where a local reader can consume a ticker tape of local political news. In addition, the non-traditional news media — local bloggers, nonprofits, civic groups, academics, and community leaders who can analyze and expose local news and events— are left out of the news reporting process. They must be included because they report news with an authority and sensibility complementary to traditional news media. Content aggregation of these curated local news sources can provide the comprehensive coverage that local readers currently miss.
Topical News Coverage as a Community Service
The mission of local content curation and aggregation is to serve both publishers and readers by connecting the two parties. Every link the reader clicks is directed to the publishing source. Publishers benefit from free syndication and expanded reach of their content, while news consumers benefit from greater efficiency in finding relevant topical news in their city. One good example of how independent news publishers benefit from local syndication is in the collaboration between The Breaking News Network and three independent news trade associations.
Curation example: Supporting news reporting in black communities
“African Americans stand out for their reliance on TV news. Almost seven out of 10 (69%) of African Americans said they watched television news “yesterday.” Despite these figures, black-oriented television news programs are rare and few last more than a few seasons.” Pew Research: State of the Media 2013.
TV and other mainstream news generally don’t cover news in black communities beyond national impact events like Michael Brown and Ferguson. Communities might rely on local black newspapers for local content, but as with all local newspapers in general, “declining advertising revenue is a problem for every African American newspaper examined” (Pew State of the Media 2013).
Curating the local black news network
The result of curation is a comprehensive local news platform that engages the black community as a news resource and a community bulletin board, with no advertising or subscription barriers to detract from the news consumption experience.
Curation example: Chronicling Local Startups and Entrepreneurs
Every city and college town is building new startup ecosystems and preaching civic sustainability. Tech centers, incubators, and other entrepreneurial ventures create opportunities that attract avid followers who use networking, conferences, education and technology to build new companies. Local news about the startup ecosystem is fragmented by messaging from VCs, incubators and educators vying for exposure and credibility. The Techcrunchs and Angel Lists maintain updates about local startup activity, but no single source of startup news exists at the local level. In addition to news revolving around tech startups, curation will include resources for entrepreneurs from economic development agencies and nonprofits with job creation missions.