This is the fifth in a series of 10 posts on steps local newspapers should take to survive and thrive in the face of the economic meltdown and the societal shift to the Internet.
5. Make the local newspaper a transactional site. The newspaper needs to provide a way for local users to research products online and to buy them through the newspaper’s business directory/web site. This recommendation is obviously is related to recommendation #4. Instead of remaining a “classified ad taker,” the surviving newspaper company would focus on actually aligning itself with local businesses, many of which would probably never advertise in the newspaper. Just as newspapers can’t rely on classifieds, they also can’t survive off display advertising. Newspapers need new ways to bring in revenue. One such path would be to become a middleman for local commerce. Many local businesses are stumped by the web and new technology and newspapers could be the ones to provide them a bridge to connect with customers online and on portable devices. These companies would welcome somebody making their business more successful, especially if they knew that the price of doing so would not be a significant upfront cost but would instead be a percentage of the revenue. This is one place the newspaper’s brand could help. Doing this would reinforce a newspaper's emphasis on looking out for the people, whether in monitoring government or in helping them make intelligent decisions as consumers. Newspapers could be of service to their readers by providing access to inventories or sales by local outlets.
Here are some concrete steps:
• Adopt business directory software that allows local businesses to manage their own Web sites, take advantage of the newspapers’ expertise in search engine optimization and connect with smart phone users on the go who might be in their vicinity.
• Communicate to the community that one of the roles of the newspaper is to organize all the information they might want to know about the community, including where to buy things or to get services.
• Use the membership model with these businesses to make them promoters of the newspaper. Just as businesses like to tout their membership in a better business bureau, they should be exposed to the benefits of being able to tout their membership in newspapers’ encyclopedia of what’s available in their communities.
Next: Newspapers should revamp their approach to print advertising.
Previous: Make the classifieds a separate, standalone business.