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Work in progress: Newspaper communities

February 11, 2009

I’ve been involved in the Newspaper industry since 1999, first as a freelance writer/photographer and then as an advertorial supplement editor. I’ve learned a few things along the way. News is the number one “product” of newspapers. The reputation of a newspaper is influenced by those employees who interact with its readers. Journalists and editors influence a newspaper’s credibility, both in print and online.

The print version is basically a recap of the news, while the online version is “live as-it-happens” news. A newspaper needs both versions – print and online – to satisfy its readers. 

The print version has been published for decades in much the same format. The online version is metamorphosing and changing every day. Readers are looking to interact with their newspapers  and other readers. Word of mouth among readers will grow the number of site visitors. Allowing readers to leave comments, upload/post breaking news or videos / photos, sign on for chat room discussions, and instant message newsroom employees 24 hours a day will go a long way toward creating an online community of newspaper readers.

Online newspaper communities should be a mixture of local and global readers. Niche communities focused on a specific topic will probably appear and disappear as interest peaks and wanes. A great flow of news will keep readers on the site, uploading video in one community, watching video in another community, posting a comment on a story in yet another community, so that as communities emerge, other communities fizzle out. So what do we call these communities? 

Newspapers can monetize their sites by offering services that businesses use in everyday operations, such as writing, printing, photography, and videography services; and other products, seminars, speakers, and so much more.

Some of these services would be offered through the Advertising department and others through the Newsroom, and other departments.

Advertising / Marketing services offered to businesses and the general public:

Graphic design, brochure design, marketing plans, press release writing

Newsroom / Online services:

Instruction in writing, interviewing, blogging, creating video for the web

IT / Web services:

Web site design/building, computer skills such as using e-mail, word processing, uploading and downloading, integrating mobile devices with online services

Circulation / transportation services:

The fleet of company vehicles could be hired for courier purposes

Each newspaper department can monetize the jobs it performs.  



The writing services alone offer a tremendous potential. Businesses need writers for their press releases, marketing materials. Businesses would benefit from Writing Courses offered by newspapers / journalists.

Services can be offered as in-person training, seminars, and workshops; or online training via webinars, which are online seminars. 

Printing to paper might become non-existent in the future as our natural resources need to be protected. In lieu of printing to paper, businesses would benefit from digital printing services. Newspaper employees could speak on many different topics at public events – writing, journalism, social media networking, marketing, etc. Newspaper photographers could be hired by businesses to produce marketing photos. Newspapers can publish local online directories or business/city profiles. These directories and profiles are a huge asset and site attraction. Other online products could include coupons and dining cards for local businesses. No one can promote local businesses better than local newspapers. 

An RSS feed on a newspaper’s site puts the paper into motion as a continuous stream of news. If that continuous stream is readily available and updated, it becomes an attractive source of news. If a site is only sporadically updated news seekers will look elsewhere for their news.

If  “community” infers people related by geography, then cover the news pertaining to that locality. In other words, make your top priority local news. Deliver that news in the media used by your followers. Demographics will show how your readers get their news: online, print, mobile units. People are finding their cell phones are more convenient than toting a laptop around. The number of users accessing the Internet via cell phone is going to increase.

Have Twitter on your homepage with feeds to news sites. Keep it updated at all times for breaking news. Think “miracle on the Hudson” news.

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