A recent study by the Columbia University School of Journalism revealed that small-market newspapers (circulations below 50,000) have displayed notable resilience thanks in part to exclusive content not offered anywhere else, the dynamics of ultra-local advertising markets, and an ability to leverage a physical closeness to their audience.
According to “Editor & Publisher,” there are 7,071 newspapers in the United States; 6,851 (97 percent) are considered small market. The small-market papers assist in voting decisions, continue to foster community identity and solidarity, and – as often the case with small-town newspapers – act as community champions.
There are three key areas where local news and newspapers add value to their communities:
• Democracy (they perform an important watchdog role acting as public eyes and ears against those in power)
• Community (the newspaper creates more attachment for people and where they live)
• Ecosystems (newspapers accounted for nearly half of the original reporting with the bulk of stories covered on TV and cable originating from newspapers)
“The newspaper industry needs to change the ‘doom and gloom’ narrative that surrounds it,” according to the report. “While acknowledging the future for small-market newspapers will continue to mirror the rockiness of the industry sector at large, the research shows that there is cause for optimism. Sizable audiences continue to buy and value local newspapers. As a result, it is incumbent that the sector begins to change its own narrative. Outlets need to be honest with their audiences about the challenges they face, but they can also do more to highlight their unique successes, continued community impact, and important news value.”