How will local news media organisations fare in the age of distributed content?

By Scott Stines


Hiawatha, Iowa, USA


INMA’s recent report, “Evaluating Distributed Content in the News Media Ecosystem” by Grzegorz Piechota, provides a disturbingly accurate assessment of the opportunities and challenges faced by legacy news media when adopting a distributed content strategy for the digital news media business.

The report — well worth the annual cost of INMA membership — provides the framework publishers should use to evaluate and select viable strategies for their future. It also raises questions, at least in my mind, about how many local independent news organisations will be able to make the “distributed content” journey.

Reaching readers where and how they want to be reached is a challenge for local media organisations.
Reaching readers where and how they want to be reached is a challenge for local media organisations.

While reading an e-mail to former subscribers who cancelled their subscription as a result of issues with the newspaper’s “content,” I wondered how newspaper journalism will evolve and succeed in the digital news business.

The responsibility of every newspaper is to provide news and information and to be the watchdog of the community. We provide detailed news and information on many topics — all of which is designed to be thought-provoking and create community dialogue. Our main goal is not to change your opinion, but to provide all sides of an issue and to find value in all points of view.

At first read, this description of the “responsibility of every newspaper” would not seem to conflict with the adoption of a distributed content strategy. But questions remain as to how many local independent legacy news media companies — given the retooling and resources required — will be willing or capable of achieving financial success in the digital news business.

Every journalist, editor, and publisher wants his content to be read by as many people as possible. It’s just that where those readers live and work has a direct impact on the financial success of the local news media organisation.

If digital news success requires local publishers to create and package “news” that is unique to each “user’s device,” let alone each demographic group, will local independent legacy news organisations be willing to rethink, rehire, and retool?

The decisions that may have already been made will likely determine whether or not they find themselves outside of the digital news business looking in.

The only path to brand (if not an organisation’s) survival might seem to lead to consolidation of ownership, centralisation of resources, and algorithm-driven content distribution.

Can legacy news media organisations live up to their local “responsibility” in the digital news business? Reading INMA’s “Evaluating Distributed Content in the News Media Ecosystem” is the first step to helping local legacy newspaper media answer that question.

About Scott Stines

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