Yes, A Newspaper Can Survive If It Focuses On The Community

from the well,-look-at-that... dept

When it comes to newspaper business models, we've been saying over and over again that the problem has never been about "free" vs. "paid" but the fact that newspapers have never done a very good job enabling their communities. It comes from the fact that many newspapers incorrectly think they're in the business of selling news to people. That's never really been true. They've always been in the business of selling their community to advertisers. And if they do things to drive that community away (or to fail to keep up with other, competing communities) they shouldn't be surprised that their business disappears as well.

As evidence of how focusing on the community can work wonders for newspapers, just check out this recent column by David Carr (who just a week or so ago had jumped on board the "all newspapers should collude to start charging" bandwagon). In it, Carr talks about the success of the Austin Chronicle, the local newspaper in Texas that has been able to weather the "newspaper business model crisis" just fine while (get this!) giving away its newspapers for free. But, it's also built up the famous South by Southwest event that just happened in Austin, and has become a huge community builder for Austin. In fact, many now identify the city with SxSW -- and that only helps the Chronicle. While others are shutting down, the Austin Chronicle isn't looking to lay anyone off. Business is off a bit due to the general downturn, but the paper doesn't have massive debts and seems to have a really loyal following among locals who recognize the overall value it adds to the community. Meanwhile, it's the newspapers that haven't bothered to really connect with their communities that are suddenly demanding those community members pay -- and are suddenly offended when people tell them "no thanks"?

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  1. identicon
    Felix Pleșoianu, 24 Mar 2009 @ 2:02pm

    To the best of my knowledge, there are two (daily) free newspapers in Bucharest, and at least two (weekly) free magazines, probably more. All of them are local and VERY relevant. Granted, it may not seem much in a city with 2.5-3 million inhabitants (there are many more for-pay publications), but everyone's heard of them, and anyone would grab a copy when available. I don't have official figures, but it seems to me they'r pretty darn successful.

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