The demise of the American fish wrap

Recent news reveals the rapid decline of the American newspaper. Some even claim that the American newspaper is dead. Many people put forth many reasons why, but I believe the answer is simple.

Somewhere along the line, American newspapers stopped providing Americans the resources they wanted.

Since the advent of television news, American newspapers felt they had to compete with other forms of media to remain the source of breaking news and to remain the source of record. Along the way, however, Americans realized that they can get different kinds of news from different kinds of sources, but many newspapers failed to adapt to the new niches new ways of delivering the news created.

One niche that newspapers have ignored is local news. I am not talking about reporting on how many murders or fires happened, but what is going on in the place that the paper claims to serve. I am not talking about a glorified community calendar, but in depth coverage of what is going right, what is going wrong, and how the paper’s readers can be involved.

Newspapers have also missed the niche of impact. Local newspapers are in a better position than any other kind of news organization to deliver in-depth coverage of local, state, national, and international news in a way that makes such news relevant to local readers.

How can papers fill these niches? Simply by focusing themselves locally. Bigger papers need to create multiple, hyper-local editions. Smaller papers need to focus on what is going on outside their own front doors. Papers need to employ people who write for the benefit of other people, even if those writers are not “trained journalists”. Papers need to focus not just on events, not just on problems, but on trends, ideas, and solutions as well.

The newspapers that will survive the current changing marketplace will be the ones who see these niches and exploit them. The ones that fail will be the ones that continue to try to be something their readers to not want or need them to be.

Maybe I should go start a paper. I bet I could buy the Dayton Daily Fishwrap (News) in a couple of years because I understand what would sell papers.


Cross-posted at A Host of Contributing Factors

Cross-posted on Journalistic Pursuits

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