Subscribers don’t have to pick mainstream over local journalism

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For mainstream journalism, the digital subscriber model seems to be the way of the future. But this model isn’t as feasible for smaller publications—and it may be forcing them into obsolescence.
 
The New York Times has flourished in recent years, thanks in part to its skyrocketing digital subscriber base. But the overwhelming success of The Times might detract from the readerships of smaller publications.
 
Having a single dominant publication limits the diversity of perspectives in mainstream journalism. With The Times’ ever-growing digital subscriber base, this news monopoly doesn’t seem too far from reality.
 
The success of The Times is exciting amidst an era of steadily declining public trust in journalism and the collapse of print advertising revenue. 
 
Their newsroom’s expansion in recent years has created more opportunities for prospective journalists, and their unparalleled digital subscriber success means a wider readership. But it’s also important to consider that their success may be detracting from the readership of smaller publications.
 
While it’s reassuring to see the publication succeed, it’s vital that consumers remember the importance of sourcing news from a variety of publications.
 
When the success of larger, national publications squeezes out regional and local news publications, smaller-scale municipal coverage is lost between the cracks. The Times, even as a news giant, isn’t equipped to catch and cover every local news story. They simply don’t have the ability to do justice to the stories that matter to people in smaller cities, because those stories often don’t feel relevant to a larger readership.
 
The Times’ revitalization makes the publication a poster child for a successful digital subscriber model. But just because the newspaper provides a model for smaller publications to follow doesn’t mean smaller publications are equipped to make that transition.
 
When pitted against The Times in the eyes of a potential subscriber, the paper’s reputation and legacy are difficult for local outlets to compete with. 
 
The Times achieved massive brand recognition before their transition to digital subscribers and multimedia journalism. Local news and journalism start-ups don’t have the same foundation on which to build their success and relevance.
 
If existing local publications are going to be able to make the transition to the digital subscriber model, they need to be willing to make big changes. New and old outlets alike need to be able to excite readers by offering them stories they can’t get elsewhere to stay competitive.
 
The Times’ newfound success is forcing a complete rethinking of what a publication has to strive for to attract and retain readers.
 
It’s important to remember that though The Times has cultivated an impressive readership, the journalism industry is still shrinking around it—and it might be contributing to that problem.
 
 

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