Business model options for small local daily papers

Claudia Elliot, ex-Editor of the Porterville Recorder, our local paper, and current Editor and General Manager at Tehachapi News joined a facebook discussion on the Recorder’s page today. The discussion is regarding the usefulness, appropriateness, and value of online news delivery of news vs. sticking with traditional print distribution and she asked the insightful question:

Have to wonder, what would a person be willing to pay for such a service — people who go out and gather news and take photos and develop and maintain an infrastructure for others to be able to access? What would most people be willing to pay?

I responded:

One that has not been asked here before!

My own sense is that there are a couple of suppositions in that question that should be considered:

1) Do people in Porterville read local news at all? Clearly many don’t. That’s kind of a shame. I (and probably you) wish it was 100%. But it isn’t, and there are a lot of socio-econoimic reasons for that mostly beyond the control of the paper.

2) Whether people read local news or not, they increasingly get their news online, and the demographic of folks still wedded to the print edition are probably older and so it won’t last forever.

3) The idea that people have paid for “news” in the past is an open question in the industry, as you might know. Some posit that people paid for the ads, the gossip, the entertainment, the comics, the puzzles, and that the news was incidental. At least after say ~120 years ago when comics and modern advertising were invented.

4) So it may well be that adverting as a sustaining source of revenue may not ever support a news-only site. And as for those other categories of information online, it is already clear people won’t be looking ot newspaper sites for them in any appreciable amount.… Read the rest

Local paper “disturbed” by low turnout, does not understand own role

…but I am not too shy to tell them some of the reasons:

See article here

Why didn’t people vote, especially when the city council made headlines more than once in the past year for antics better left to a vaudeville show or a sitcom.

Easy answer: Because the Recorder has abdicated its civic reporting responsibilities many times:

1) You posted a video of a TCSO officer misbehaving and admitting that he knew he was misbehaving. That was good. But it only lasted about 24 hours as a more senior TCSO officer asked the paper to pull the video, which you promptly did.

2) You have never pressed Councilmembers, especially those running for election on any controversial matters. The town has been hurt for almost 4 years as a result of Ward and Hamilton working to take away the rights of gays. And Hamilton’s flip-flop from his 2003 vote, when he pledged Council to work against what he urged the 2008 Council to do has never been reported. In fact, the Recorder took the page offline that reported the 9/2003 meeting I refer to.

3) Hamilton again: You have never followed up regarding his odd behavior during the arrest of the previous publisher of the Recorder.

4) You have never reported on the discovery, made quite plain on the Recorder facebook page by Case Lok and others, that Rodney Martin had posted materials with his view on the impropriety (to day the least) of the mixing of races in public and homophobic reasons why he homeschools his kids. Not only ought that have been news, but why he never mentioned it in his campaign ought to have been news as well.

5) You have never run or lent your voice to a sustained voter registration drive or get out the vote drive.… Read the rest