Local media is on the brink of collapse, but they can do the most to save themselves

Local media is on the brink of collapse, but they can do the most to save themselves

"News deserts" are expanding in the US, as local media found itself hit the hardest by recent developments. The survival of local newspapers is essential in preserving the communities, and how publishers react is a deciding factor.

Local media is on the brink of collapse, but they can do the most to save themselves

The local news crisis in the US is deepening, according to the latest edition of the State of Local News, published by Northwestern University's Medill School. In the past 15 years, as they put it, it "has metastasized like a slow-moving cancer coursing through the bloodstream of enclaves from suburbia to rural America."

Some of the key findings of their diagnosis are:

  • The number of local news outlets continued to contract at an even steeper rate in 2023
  • Residents in more than half of US counties have no, or very limited, access to a reliable local news source.
  • 204 counties have become news deserts (no newspapers, local digital sites, public radio newsrooms or ethnic publications)
  • Newspapers are vanishing at an average rate of more than two a week.

The future of local media seems even grimmer, according to their prognosis:

  • On the current trajectory, by the end of next year, the US will have lost a third of its newspapers since 2005
  • There are 228 other counties at risk of losing access to local news, turning into "news deserts."

The latter number means that, in a few years, 10-14 percent of US counties can without local media. No one will inform people living there about developments affecting them the most, no one will help them in decision-making, no one will hear them, and no one will tell their stories and make them heard.

Losing local media is not only a matter of business, but it also seriously wounds the communities and even democracy.

Therefore, it is in common interest to save local media everywhere it still exists. The latest edition of the State of Local News offers some good practices across the US which can be exemplary for small media companies.

As Press Gazette highlights, one of the key factors behind the crisis is that many publishers are still struggling to find a model for local news in the digital era.

According to their ranking of US local media based on the number of subscribers, some companies are bucking the decline and finding success digitally.

Keeping up with the times has never been this important for media companies, especially for those of small and medium size. Today, having a professional and ever-evolving multi-channel publishing system that synchronizes online and offline content, streamlines the workflow, and provides all the features a media company needs is vital.

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