Consolidating local print media on the front porch

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Newspaper pile. Valerie Everett/FlickrThere are some who still enjoy being able to pick up a paper from their local newsstand or their coffee house of choice. The need to read a printed product appears to be stronger (at least anecdotally) in denser cities with more alternative transportation options. There are many here and in other mid-sized cities looking for ways to avoid having a stronger relationship with their smartphone or tablet as a way to consume media.

An interesting proposal came up shortly after a planning meeting wrapped up downtown last night. Birmingham, AL is a city that will still have at least five non-daily publications available for consumption in the city limits after The Birmingham News completes its shift to publishing three days a week this fall. Considering the printing schedules for those remaining publications, wouldn’t it be interesting to see someone attempt to bundle their delivery to area homes?

Customers would sign up for a home delivery subscription, giving them a chance to still receive a printed product on their doorstep every morning. It would expose them to more of what’s going on in the community in more highly focused doses than is currently the case. The remaining titles would be quite complementary – one focused on arts and culture, another on politics, yet another on our business climate and one more that appears to be focusing more on food. This would be in addition to the three days of printed product courtesy of The News.

Maybe we’d do a better job of “singing from the same songbook,” enabling more meaningful conversations among those seeking it.

It’s also not like this couldn’t provide for a guaranteed circulation to base rates off of that advertisers would be more comfortable. The resources are available to make it easier to do a limited run for the subscribers, a la the effort underway at the Voice of San Diego.

It may take some of these publications owning their expertise more than they do and others accepting that their strength may not be what they think. It could may take us back to the days of being even slightly more aware of a broader range of events and activities. We do still talk of being in silos after all – both online and off.

There are additional things that would need to be worked out among the various news gathering organizations – including egos. The result though is a way to keep the presses rolling just a little bit longer for those not ready to let go of them.

It may not be enough to save the likes of The Village Voice from its slow march towards extinction or of the Chicago Reader from being able to truly claim its independent and alternative cred, but it be able to help others figure out exactly what their role is to be in this new digital playing field by buying them just a little more time.

It’s something they desperately need right now. We as communities probably need it too – more than we realize…

Photo: Newspaper pile. Valerie Everett/Flickr


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