Lots of people know about the digital strategies of the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major metros, but what does the future hold for the thousands of smaller, community newspapers operating throughout the United States?
Penelope Muse Abernathy, the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores that question in her new book, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability, and an accompanying website.
Abernathy spent about five years working with community newspaper leaders to devise strategies to turn print-focused organizations into multiplatform publications. In all, she organized workshops at 100 newspapers; many of those papers larger than the 15,000-or-less-circulation publications that are traditionally considered community papers.
Abernathy argues for “a much more expansive and modern definition of community newspapers” based on mission and market as opposed to circulation. The papers she studied include rural weeklies, dailies in small cities and even a 150,000 circulation Spanish-language weekly in Chicago.
During her meetings with leaders at these publications, Abernathy conducted surveys and discovered that a typical paper brings in less than 10% of its revenue from digital. But, as Abernathy stresses, there’s hope for more robust earnings if community papers can reposition themselves as venues for cross-platform advertising.