Seth Goodin’s Idea for local papers is close but not bang on…

Over at his blog, Seth Goodin speaks about how real estate companies should look into setting up local newspapers – and he gives not bad reasons for it.

It’s a cute idea – and something I’ve been thinking about recently as well – but I think he’s slightly missing the mark on this one. Yes, as newspaper companies try to reduce debt/increase profitability (most UK locals are still profitable, US is a tad different) and hammer staff at locals, someone should be stepping up with the local paper but who should it be?

I think it should be the local councils. And I think it could not only be easily done, but also become a great revenue income generator for them
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A thought on papers linking all over the place

As most web readers know, The Huffington Post is often cited as a good example of what journalism may be in the future – or rather, what a newspaper may be – and while it doesn’t tickle my fancy, I’ll let others enjoy it (each to their own and all that) but there’s also been a row recently about links where the The New York Times Company is being sued for copyright infringement over some local sites linking with headlines/intros to another publisher’s articles. The other publisher claims that by going straight to the story page and not going through a main page or anything, then they are deprived of advertising.

Now, I can sympathise a little, but a couple of points:
1) The links are useful. The more places you are linked at, the more chances people will come and read your story. It’s like a headline in a paper. If they don’t like it, they’ll move on and won’t read it.
2) I still don’t know anyone who clicks on ads on the web. I know people who go for promo codes that are emailed/texted to them but a normal ad rarely seems to do the trick, but someone must be doing it I guess.

However, what caught my eye was this comment by Jeff Jarvis: “they will allow a local publication to do local well and link to other stories rather than rewriting them: Do what you do best, link to the rest.

Here’s a thought for many a local paper – and I appreciate that Jeff is talking more about the US where local has a different definition to the UK – To hell with the rest. Do local, do nothing but local, do it better than anyone else. Someone else wants to talk about Gaza? Let them, unless you have a strong local angle. Famine in Africa? Is there a local angle? Then it’s not in. Instead of pushing for the larger and larger coverage, dump it. Let people go the BBC or The Guardian or somwhere for that. Let them come to you for the local.

And if you’re that good at it, then everyone will link to you. And if everyone’s looking at your site, then it’s up to you to try and find a way to make that profitable (if profit is your thing).