Digital-first local websites are starting to partially fill the void left by the slow death of local newspapers.
Why it matters: About a third of large U.S. newspapers have suffered layoffs since 2017, according to a new study from Pew Research Center.
- Newspaper layoffs have accelerated over the past year as Canadian print tariffs continue to strangle local presses and economic pressures from tech companies continue to squeeze out ad dollars from legacy news organizations.
- Most recently, New York Daily News announced it's letting go of roughly half of its editorial team.
- Other Tronc-owned newspapers, like The Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune, are also expecting some layoffs, CNN's Brian Stelter reports.
"Our membership has doubled in the past two years. So we have 225 members. The Institute for Nonprofit News has experienced similar growth."— Matt DeRienzo, executive director, Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION)
On top of that, DeRienzo says that the trade group has a database of 600+ of local online news sites that would qualify for membership to LION, meeting their requirements of doing real journalism and being independent — and they come across new ones every day.
The Local Media Consortium — which represents dozens of local papers and media companies, like The Seattle Times, The McClatchy Company and Cox Media Group — also says that it's seeing record growth for digital websites of newspapers, some of which are downsizing in print.
- Local banner advertising revenue for LMC members (generated through the LMC Ad Exchange/Auction Package) has increased over 100% in the last three years, according to 2017 vs. 2016 LMC membership self-reported numbers audited by AAM, the Alliance for Audited Media.
The rise of niche, local sites: LMC CEO Fran Wills says there are also a lot of websites creating hyper-local news around certain interest areas, like sports and entertainment.
- In the past, some of these sites would only be represented in perhaps a small newspaper section, but now they are becoming entire entities.
- One example: Dawgnation.com is a niche sports site created by Cox Media Group for UGA football fans in the Atlanta/Athens area of Georgia.
The bottom line: While these efforts can't fully replace the thousands of journalists being displaced across the country, they are helping small communities access local news and information. In some cases, they are able to take coverage of certain small topic areas or communities to the next level.
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