Hi there. Do you own a newspaper? I’ve got some completely unqualified advice for you about how to save your no-doubt bleeding and dying horribly print enterprise. Of course, following this advice will make you hated beyond all belief, but that, for me, is the fun part of the exercise. I don’t have to do this shit. You probably do.
The short answer is “Change yourself from being something for everyone to something for everyone that lives in the area you serve.” Newspapers are the best tool for one thing: local news that locals care about. That’s your product.
1) Take a hard look at your newspaper and ask whether each section is actually necessary. If they can be consistently beaten to the punch by a blog and are not hard news, the answer is no. But that’s OK, you never should have hired a style reporter in the first place, and “celebrity news” journalists can just go feed on the bottom of the Internet with Perez Hilton.
2) Ditch in-depth national news. National news can be gotten from about eight sources before your reader gets up to take his morning leak at this point. By the time he picks up your paper, he’s seen everything you have to say on CNN. Include important blurbs, of course, those redirect people to your site. But if you’re just reprinting the AP, don’t bother. Blogs can’t cover local news in depth the way you can.
3) Start firing editors. While I love editing and editors, if you look at the masthead of your average newspaper, it’s kind of shocking what the editor to journalist ratio is. Editors should really go first.
4) Turn your journalists, all of them, into brands. In addition to their articles, they should have a blog they update once a day on weekdays. Not everybody’s going to get huge traffic, but bandwidth is cheap and it’ll drive traffic to your site.
5) Accept, once and for all, that Craigslist is not going anywhere, and dump the classifieds. Your ad revenue from now on is going to come almost exclusively from businesses buying ad space.
6) Run a free website, for Christ’s sake. The fuss and whining over how the Internet steals your news is annoying to anybody with a working brain, because it’s vastly more expensive to print thousands of copies of your paper than it is to put it up, and you make that money back with ads on the sites. Blogs linking to you are your friends: they redirect people to articles, thus driving up your traffic.
7) Accept that the industry has permanently changed. The “good old days” are not coming back, no matter how much you strain to try and make them return. Either get busy making a product of genuine use, or get busy winding down your paper so someone else can take over.