Pretty much every local media company has taken their lumps during the past few years, this is even more true with the onset of Covid-19. Despite these challenging times, it has never been more important for a local community to have a voice that comes with a viable media company. But here is another observation, no media company can survive in a community with a dying business base as well. Both the community and the media company along with the local city unit of government desperately need each other to win — of that there is no question.
Before we discuss the strategy that can lead to a solid return for local businesses and the community, let’s focus on the reality of print media. While newspaper audiences have declined in recent years along with every other local advertising, marketing and social media option, they still have the largest single audience in nearly every local community across the country. What other single media outlet captures or speaks to between 20-75% of their community’s audience? This number swells even larger when you count their digital and niche product reach.
To put that in perspective. More people across the country read a weekend newspaper than watch any given Super Bowl.
Make no mistake, it isn’t just the percentage of audience they reach. More importantly, it is the make-up of the audience they reach. What media can still say they reach in excess of 50% of the above fifty crowd? Yes, that is the generational crowd having the largest amount of expendable income. This is the group most connected within the community. This is the group most likely to cast a ballot in the local elections. This is the group that largely embraces the ink on paper form of reading.
Enough about the demographics of a newspaper, what does this mean for local businesses in the community? Let me offer a path forward for local businesses, local media and the community.
It is no secret the local media derives their income from either advertising/marketing dollars or subscribers. Truth be told, the newspaper’s ultimate survival rests in the hands of the local community. That being the case, it behooves media companies to unequivocally embrace the concept of shopping and supporting hyper-local. You notice, I didn’t say local. I said hyper-local. Hyper-local is defined as locally owned and operated businesses, not big boxes and nationally owned chains simply located in your community. They may provide some economic balance which is good, but they won’t save the community as most of their dollars will not remain local.
A media company needs to work with the local businesses and their community to market and brand a hyper-local strategy. They need to work with the local businesses, chamber and the city to create rewards and incentives encouraging hyper-local spending. They need to constantly pound home in editorial content the need and desire to support their community by spending hyper-locally. In short, they hold the key to educating their community regarding hyper-local spending and the real dangers of spending local dollars with national establishments where the profits go to pave the roads in some far-off town where their corporate headquarters might be.
This partnership must be a two-way street. Local businesses need to work with the local media company on strategies creating win-win partnerships between them. The media companies need the business community to survive. Likewise, the business community and city need the media company to help change the mindset and shopping habits in the community. The bottom-line is if the mindset of shopping at big boxes and national chains (as well as digitally) doesn’t change at least a bit, both media companies and local business face a very bleak future.
It is no secret, America was built on the backs of local business and to an extent, the media. Small business coupled with local media have always led to sustainable community success.
Communities working together overcoming obstacles can still win. Time is short and of the essence. It is time for media companies to reach and take the lead in this battle for the hyper-local spending mentality. It is also time for the local business community to embrace the media working to solve this problem. United, you can stand. Divided, you will most assuredly die.
John A. Newby, author of "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street," a column and Facebook group dedicated to helping local communities and media companies combine synergies allowing them to not just survive, but thrive where truly-local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.