This economic model could save the weeklies of the Midwest | KCUR 89.3
Today, most people consume news online – and it’s been a disaster for newspapers that operate on a business model little changed from colonial times.
This lack of change has had devastating results. During the pandemic, more than 100 local newsrooms have closed, according to the Poynter Institute. Indeed, since 2004, approximately 1,800 newspapers have closed, including 1,700 weeklies.
The hope for these predominantly rural publications — often serving populations of a few thousand people — may lie in a new project led by the University of Kansas. Based on surveys in Great Plains states that asked publishers what sources of income they preferred and readers what content they wanted to read, the researchers came up with a model of non-traditional ways to generate income.
Teri Finneman, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, says the pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of these small local publications.
“It was a time when it was absolutely essential to have a local newspaper. There was no other way to get that crucial information you needed about the pandemic,” Finneman says.
One publisher willing to try the new model is Joey Young, owner and publisher of Kansas Publishing Ventures. He bought his first newspaper 10 years ago, when he was 27. Even then, he was unhappy with the subscription and ad revenue model.
“I don’t think that’s typical of my industry right now,” Young admits, but as a company looking for new revenue streams, “having streams from multiple rivers is better than one.”