Traffic is high and the living is easy, unless you're a local online paper.
A report from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at John F. Kennedy School of Government called "Creative Destruction: An Exploratory Look at News on the Internet" looked at the traffic of 160 news-based websites over a yearlong period.
What they found indicates that "websites of national 'brand-name' newspapers are growing," while those of many local papers are not.The report
highlights geography as one source of local newsies' demise citing that “because the Web reduces the influence of geography on people’s choice of a news source, it inherently favors “brand names” — those relatively few news organizations that readily come to mind to Americans everywhere when they go to the Internet for news."
Researchers speculate that while big papers threaten little ones, the latter can leverage their weight by toting brand names in their respective communities. Often well-known by friends and neighbors, local newspapers can drive traffic to sites by giving them a coveted product: Local news!
Community sites, considered among the 'nontraditional sites' included in the report, seem to be successful in attracting visitors from within their community. Many such destinations include community-centered pages, which may not always include news, but compete with local news outlets for residents’ attention.
While their unique monthly visitor count is small by comparison with the newspaper sites in the same cities, traffic to these sites grew by 14 percent.
In addition to providing content that readers find relevant, whether it's the neighborhood recycling drive or national news, smaller local sites might find an edge in news aggregators, whose traffic increased across the board between April 2006 and 2007.
Aggregators, whether generated by an algorithms, editors or crowdsourcers, help to relay news to the greater world at large and can boost traffic to less-than-brand name online news source.
As Caroline McCarthy of CNET News.com succinctly summarizes, “a link on the Top 10 of Digg, after all, is a link regardless of whether it came from the International Herald Tribune or a post on a MySpace.com profile blog—if Digg’s large and dedicated user base deems it worthy of several thousand thumbs-up, it gets exposure.”
And if you’re a local newspaper, exposure is your best friend, especially in the tumultuous days of online and print warfare.