Saturday, October 03, 2009

Building a National Local News Service on the Cheap

Clay Shirky gave a talk at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard last week, where he performed a physical "biopsy" on a copy of his hometown newspaper, the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune. Let's get out of the way the fact that this is one newspaper and an unscientific study, but the analysis that he did was very illuminating. He found out the following facts for the issue that he dissected:
  • Less than a third of the paper was locally-created content; the majority came from the Associated Press and other syndicated sources.
  • Less than half of the locally-created content (not including sports) was written by the paper's hard news reporters; the rest came from columnists, covering topics such as cooking, travel, etc.
  • The paper has only six hard news reporters, out of a staff of 59. Every reporter filed at least one story that day; three of the six filed two stories.
  • The paper also has 11 sports reporters, including one dedicated only to high school sports.
Shirky points out that there are also a variety of editors, but hardly enough to fill out the remaining 42 positions (and you don't need 42 editors for 17 reporters.) So, you've got six hard news reporters and 11 sports reporters, handily covering the events of a city of 100,000 people.

The core function of the newspaper for its readers is fulfilled by the 17 reporters and the editors assigned to them. If you want to provide a local, web-based news service, you'll need those 17 reporters and their editors. If you've got several of these local services, you can have a centralized team that adds content from syndicated services, lays out and populates the websites, and manages the IT infrastructure.

If you're someone like Comcast that already has a national local advertising sales team (Spotlight), you can handle local and national advertising sales for the news service through the salesforce you already have. Thus, you can build a local news service on the cheap using experienced, professional journalists, and with national reach.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Post a Comment