I regularly read up to four newspapers during the week. The Observer Tribune for local Long Valley news, The Daily Record for Morris County and NJ news, The Star Ledger, and The Wall Street Journal. These companies all have the same problem which is dwindling newspaper subscriptions, advertisers that have become more sophisticated and realize that newspaper advertising is awful (exception is if it is really local advertising), and faster news stories available via blogs and Twitter. What they've also probably have figured out is that online advertising, though the wave of the now, can't possibly make up for the shortfall in offline advertising. Hence the cutbacks in staff and for papers like the LA Times, Washington Post, and The New York Times cutbacks in integrity.
Yes that's right, newspapers are figuring out that while the web is really their only future, the future probably won't be filled with as much ad revenue. In order to get the ad revenue, they need to compete with finicky readers who demand instant news and with local blogs who can get stories out quickly. This fracturing of the web means less traffic, but that's why I love that The Daily Record took the plunge into Twitter.
Yes Twitter. The Wall Street Journal gets it, but The Observer Tribune doesn't. So what does The Daily Record know that other local papers don't...
WHAT LOCAL PAPERS CAN GET FROM TWITTER
- People demand instant notification when important stories come out
- People don't hang out on local newspaper sites all day long, so you need to continually drive traffic
- RSS feeds, believe it or not, are not the desired communication vehicle. Heck, even if you knew what they are, you'd have realized that you need to visit a page or your outlook to get an alert. This is so impersonal, yet a Tweet is personal
- Tweets can actually drive traffic to your website. I've found I get way more traffic from Tweets than I do from email/RSS subscribers.
- Eventually there will be a revenue model so the more Twitter subscribers a paper has, the better it will be.
- The Tweets and re-Tweets have huge pass on value and word can spread quickly and virtually for free
The Daily Records gets it. Perhaps some day other local newspapers will wake up a realize that just having a website and hoping people show up is not to way to monetize websites or increase traffic. Embracing new technologies like Twitter, Facebook, and the iPhone will help lead the way to more revenue.