Daniel Richardson on the Challenges Faced by Local Newspapers

Daniel Richardson on the Challenges by Local Newspapers
Photo: Unsplash.com

Local journalism has been on the decline for decades. The rise of the internet has been closely linked to the closure of plenty of small-town publications all over the USA, with serious consequences for their communities. With one in five Americans living in a so-called news desert, protecting and supporting these media outlets has never been more crucial. Not by chance, the lack of local newspapers is associated with a decline in community engagement and higher levels of misinformation. 

But why are local publications disappearing? Daniel Richardson, founder of Richardson Media Group, a company that protects small-town newspapers, believes three main factors are responsible for this crisis: 

Limited Resources and Staff

According to an article by Le Monde, since 2005, the USA has lost 43,000 journalists, roughly two-thirds of all its editorial staff. Local and well-established national newspapers and magazines are struggling with financial resources and, consequently, decided to fire their writers. 

For instance, at the beginning of 2024, The Los Angeles Times, the biggest newspaper west of the Washington, D.C. area, laid off roughly 20% of the people working in its newsroom. Similarly, The Times had to fire 74 of its journalists, while National Geographic cut 17 editorial positions in 2023. With massive publications being forced to fire their writers to make ends meet, it is not too surprising that local newspapers no longer have the funds to pay their writers. 

Competition

The amount of people relying on the internet to access the news keeps increasing. According to data published by the Pew Research Center, 86% of U.S. adults use their smartphone, computer, or tablet to read the news. As a consequence, in 2022, the U.S. daily newspaper circulation was down by 8% for weekdays and 10% for Sundays compared to 2021.

This phenomenon is due to several factors. For instance, accessing news online is easier and quicker as people don’t have to leave their homes to purchase a newspaper. On top of this, it is also cheaper as plenty of information is now available online completely for free. 

Decline in Advertising Revenue

Lastly, newspapers are struggling to secure funds due to the failure of the so-called ‘umbrella’ market model. In their paper, Sjøvaag and Owren (2021) claimed that local journalism used to get a substantial part of its funds thanks to advertisers wanting to target locals. Now, however, internet algorithms offer the same service with much better efficiency, as the number of people browsing the internet daily is way higher than the number of people buying local newspapers. 

Companies all over the USA can now effortlessly reach their clients through effective advertising campaigns by targeting people living in specific areas. This is made possible thanks to the availability of several online advertisement services, which streamline the process of localizing ad content and ensuring it reaches the desired audience efficiently.

This, together with the factors highlighted above, has led to the closure of roughly 2.5 newspapers per week in 2023, negatively affecting the people living in small-town communities who often don’t have access to local news.

 

Published by: Khy Talara

(Ambassador)

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