While the demise of Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily sent shockwaves through the publishing world-and was certainly precipitated by political pressure from Beijing-there is no doubt that local newspapers, the backbone of communities for over 200 years, have virtually disappeared.
Trust in news rebounding, generating sense of community
However, in Australia, just for one example, the recently published "Digital News Report: Australia 2021" finds that local news continues to be an important part of the news diet, and the findings confirm the significant role that the newspaper print plays in generating a sense of community.
According to the report, women-and young people in particular-say that they are underrepresented in news, with 26% of Gen Z women saying news does not give their gender enough coverage. News consumption has fallen from the COVID-19 high, with heavy news use dropping from 69% in April 2020 to 51% in January 2021, and lower than previous years. The result is many communities are left without local news and small businesses without an affordable way to reach consumers, since one consequence of the newspaper industry's demise is the absence of a reliable local advertising channel.
U.S.-based Local News Network is one organisation that has stepped into the breach. Founded by Laurie Sigillito of Durango, Colorado, Local News Network's goal is to rebuild local news outlets across the U.S., one town at a time. "Local News Network addresses two problems: providing relevant news to underserved markets and helping local businesses easily and effectively reach their local consumers," Sigillito says.
"At its core, all news is local"
The network model financially stimulates communities because most of the advertising dollars are reinvested in local markets to produce and distribute news. Local News Network distributes its news and advertising in a variety of ways, including on websites and mobile apps, social media sites, third-party news aggregators, podcasts, and free opt-in email newsletters. It also maintains a proprietary distribution network of digital displays placed in high-traffic locations, like airports, DMVs, quick-serve restaurants, bank drive-throughs and hardware stores.
"We are currently in four towns in the Four Corners area of Southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico, and despite the pandemic, our subscribers and advertisers are growing. We plan to launch in two other local news areas in 2021 and hope to expand to hundreds of other markets over the next five years," says COO Bert Carder.
The network is an example of a growing trend by businesses across the country that try to "do well by doing good." "In the end, we are all about the communities we serve," says Sigillito. "We tell their stories because, at its core, all news is local."