Print journalism is changing fast.
Consolidation, constriction and competition dominate the print media landscape in local markets nationwide. With online-only publications growing and the number of print outlets shrinking, news consumers are finding many new options — Facebook blurbs, Twitter headlines and Tumblr photos to name a few.
A buffet of news via Warren Buffett
Borrowing the words from billionaire and newspaper publishing mogul Warren Buffett, “News is what people don’t know that they want to know.”
Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway, (NYSE: BRK.A and BRK.B) now owns 30 daily newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and most recently The Roanoke Times. USA Today, which Buffett does not own, recently reported Berkshire owns 40 other non-daily newspapers along with additional monthly magazines and regional publications. Talk about buying ink by the barrel.
In his 2013 annual letter to shareholders, Buffett wrote, “Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news.
If you want to know what’s going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job.”
In publishing, content is king. If you have compelling stories and powerful visuals, you’ll have readers. In fact, you may even have engaged readers who opt to share, post and tweet your content, further magnifying your message.
A reminder of the importance of local content
On Saturday, I received a reminder in my mailbox of the importance of local content. It came via a little-known glossy, 12-page monthly, The Robious Corridor.
With a circulation of just 14,890, this free publication has a simple strategy:
Hyper-local news content focused in and around Robious Road in Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties.
Above is the June-July 2013 cover of Robious Corridor courtesy of Chip Gregory.In the June-July issue, I read a column about one of my daughter’s former teachers and a profile on a high school football player who lives up the street. Would I see this content in my local daily newspaper? Maybe, but not with a consistent local focus.
Other hyper-local examples in Richmond, Va., include:
- The Chesterfield Observer, a free weekly newspaper, with a circulation of 70,746, and its recent addition of Chesterfield Monthly, a glossy news and lifestyle magazine with a circulation of 64,669.
- The Henrico Citizen, a free twice-monthly newspaper with a circulation of 34,000.
- The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s weekly publications reaching some 63,800 homes, the Midlothian Exchange, Powhatan Today, Cumberland Today, Goochland Gazette and Mechanicsville Local publications.
- People want to feel connected at the local level. We want to read about the high school soccer team, the upcoming community fundraiser and Jonathan the Juggler’s performance schedule.
- Big news outlets can’t always do small (well). The sheer economics of news gathering and reporting are complex. Typically, there are lots of stories and fewer reporters to dig in, report and gather news.
- Attention spans are short. The constant hum of emails, posts and tweets leave most people overwhelmed. That’s where hyper-local content kicks in, offering insights and updates that aren’t readily available elsewhere.
I predict that Mr. Buffett will continue this hyper-local focus in the months ahead. With the power of dozens of newspapers now under Berkshire Hathaway, the well-known Oracle of Omaha may create this hyper-local focus from scratch – or maybe he’ll buy it one Robious Corridor at a time.
Jonathan Rhudy loves to know the carbon-footprint of his news and his groceries.