5. Virus sends local news into crisis
Dozens of local newsrooms began laying people off this week out of fear that the economic hit of the coronavirus could severely impact their ad revenue, Sara Fischer and Margaret Harding McGill report.
- Why it matters: Local news was already facing dire times. The coronavirus and a pending recession could push the industry into near collapse at a time when people need access to local info more than ever before.
The Tampa Bay Times (long the St. Pete Times) announced Wednesday that it had laid off 11 journalists.
- Alt weeklies have been hit hard, with cuts at the Monterey County Weekly, Detroit Metro Times, Cleveland Scene, Orlando Weekly, San Antonio Current and others, per Nieman Lab.
- Some weeklies have suspended print publishing, including the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, Sacramento News & Review, Portland Mercury, The Stranger in Seattle and The Pulse in Chattanooga, Tenn.
How it works: Local news businesses depend on ads from bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, "and this evaporates that," says GroupM's Brian Wieser, one of the top advertising industry analysts.
Between the lines: Local and national outlets are beginning to drop their paywalls. But David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance, a newspaper trade association, said there has been no bump in digital subscriptions:
- "While we have seen a bump in digital traffic, the additional digital ad revenue is minimal because that system is dominated by Google and Facebook."
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