“The smart phone screen is the only screen in some communities”: Local news’ digital adaptation

The Coastal Courier is a weekly community newspaper in Georgia with an office on Main Street — and a VR channel. “Are they adequately meeting the information needs with their technology?” Jesse Holcomb wondered. “Are they carving out a space on social platforms or avoiding them altogether?” Holcomb, a Calvin College professor and former Pew researcher, highlighted the Coastal Courier’s digital adaptation — not necessarily innovation — at an event at Columbia Journalism’s Tow Center Wednesday evening. He conducted research to answer those very questions more broadly in the journalism industry, finding that one in ten local news outlets don’t even have their own website, among other tidbits we summarized here. New in this talk: Holcomb shared the starting-a-local-news-outlet to-do list of Brian Boyer, head of product at digital local news chain Spirited Media: A website, a subscriber box, and an email newsletter. Then, “start publishing
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Venture philanthropy for local news might not be as scary as it sounds

An incomplete list of attempts to finance local news: Swallow that bile in your throat — at least for the last item. Local news is swimming in quite the pickle juice, as we’ve documented here before. Two of the brains behind a couple nonprofit, mission-driven, local-centric news organizations think venture philanthropy could help similar outlets get closer to the bullseye of sustainable local news as a public good.

Are billionaires trying to swipe local news again? (Nope.)

The concept is called the American Journalism Project, Continue reading "Venture philanthropy for local news might not be as scary as it sounds"

Where local news has adapted to digital — and where it can still grow (hint: not geographically)

So you want to support local news. But can you even find the subscribe button on the Daily Planet’s clunky website to do so? Is the website optimized for a smartphone? (Which is, of course, what you’re probably trying to use to find said button.) Does the organization even have a website, or does it shoot straight to social media instead of fighting with a WordPress template? If you answered “uh, don’t know” or “eek, no” or “maybe I can for one site but I care about strengthening local news more broadly,” then you might want to check out this new research from Calvin College professor Jesse Holcomb, published over at Columbia University’s Tow Center. Holcomb — who spent 10 years as a researcher at Pew before going to Calvin — examined 2,072 local news outlets, a sample drawn from Cision’s media database. (He defined “local” as “if
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$20 million is heading toward local news from the Lenfest Institute and Knight Foundation

Boom, baby: After initially joining forces to boost Table Stakes — their project to boost the nation’s metro newspapers — the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute are each putting $10 million into a joint fund targeted at local news. (Yes, $20 million total, with opportunity for more to come.) Table Stakes was launched in 2015 by Knight and Temple University, bringing leaders from four metropolitan newspapers in the U.S. together to gameplan for their digital transition. Lenfest was founded in 2016 and began supporting the newly rebranded Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative in February 2017, expanding to 12 newsrooms. Now, the new collaboration will center around three pillars, explained Lenfest executive director Jim Friedlich and Knight’s vice president of journalism Jennifer Preston:

Billy Penn, Denverite, and The Incline are all going after members. Can they become predominately reader-supported?

It’s a member, it’s a contributor, it’s a customer — no, it’s that saintly reader whose main interest is supporting these local news sites and keeping the journalism free to read for others who can’t afford it. Last fall, Spirited Media was laying off staff at each of its three publications. Earlier this year, it shifted its strategy to seeking significant reader support, namely, membership (contributions, donations, gifts, whatever you want to want to call it), a business decision that a whole slew of other sites both large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, legacy or startup, have converged on in the past several years. “We had just come off a lot of internal turmoil in the newsroom that left me with one reporter when I took over. People who care about journalism were aware that it might be a weird time to be asking people for support — um, wait,
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The Lenfest Institute is testing new products for local news, and it wants your help

In the local news space, what’s missing? (Don’t say money.) What about rigorous — maybe even fun — product development and testing? That’s what a new team organized by the Lenfest Institute, one of the newest kids on the local-news-innovation-and-sustainability block, is devoted to. Led by Sarah Schmalbach, the former co-leader of the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab and Gannett product manager who came up through Philadelphia’s local news environment, the Lenfest Local Lab is the institute’s collaborative attempt to dig into new ways that local news and information could be more useful and accessible for residents. National and international organizations have their own innovation hubs, from the BBC’s four-person team testing 12 prototypes for mobile storytelling and that Guardian mobile lab that ended earlier this year. But there isn’t quite a systematic approach to analyzing options for the special space that local news occupies — sometimes as Continue reading "The Lenfest Institute is testing new products for local news, and it wants your help"

An analysis of 16,000 stories, across 100 U.S. communities, finds very little actual local news

We know that local journalism is suffering. We talk about news deserts and shuttering newspapers. Research has tended to focus on individual communities, or more broadly on certain types of journalism outlets and the coverage of certain types of topics. But what do the problems for local news look like on a broader level? Researchers from the News Measures Research Project at Duke analyzed more than 16,000 news stories across 100 U.S. communities with populations ranging from 20,000 to 300,000 people. (U.S. Census data identifies 493 such communities; the researchers chose a random sample of 100.) What they found isn’t promising: — Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local — that is actually about or having taken place within — the municipality. — Less than half (43 percent) of the news stories provided to a community by local media Continue reading "An analysis of 16,000 stories, across 100 U.S. communities, finds very little actual local news"