While local media — usually the local newspaper — have taken financial hits in recent years, the long-awaited death of newspapers has been wildly exaggerated.

It is often said that the success of the local business base in a community is largely based on the success of local media. Before we discuss the strategy that can lead to a solid return for local businesses, let’s focus on the reality of local media. One must place the current print audience in perspective: More people across the country read an average Sunday or weekend newspaper than watch the Super Bowl in any given year.

While print newspaper audiences have declined, along with every other advertising and marketing option, newspapers have made up for that with growing and robust digital audiences. Hands down, they have the largest combined audience in nearly every local community across the country. What other media outlet captures or speaks to between 30% to 60% of its community’s audience? None.

Make no mistake, it isn’t just the percentage of audience newspapers reach — it is the makeup of the audience they reach. What media can say it reaches nearly 50% of the above age 45-to-50 crowd? This is the crowd with the greatest amount of expendable income among various generational groups. This is the crowd most connected within the community. This is the crowd more likely to cast a ballot in the local elections. This is the crowd that still embraces the ink-on-paper form of reading.

What does this mean for small and medium-sized local businesses in your community? Let me suggest a path forward for media, local businesses and the community.

It is no surprise media outlets derive much of their revenue from both advertising/marketing dollars along with their audience or subscribers. A newspaper’s ultimate success and survival rests in the hands of the local business base and community. That being the case, it behooves local media companies to embrace the “Truly Local” mantra as well as the mission of shopping hyperlocal. Bear in mind, I didn’t say local: I said hyperlocal. That is locally owned and operated businesses, not national chains and big-box stores located in your community. While balance is necessary, national chains and big boxes do nothing to assure local media and the local business base survive.

Local media companies need to work with local businesses to market a hyperlocal strategy. They need to work with local businesses to create rewards and incentives encouraging hyperlocal spending. They need to constantly pound home daily in their editorial and story content the need and desire to support the community by spending hyperlocally. In short, the local media may be the only viable way a community can become educated regarding the critical need for hyperlocal spending.

Pointing out the danger of spending local dollars with establishments where profits go to pave the roads in a far-off corporate headquarters city in lieu of your own roads rests with local media.

This partnership needs to be a two-way street. Local businesses need to work with local media companies on strategies that create win-win partnerships between them. While media companies need the business community to thrive, so does the business community need the media company to help change the mindset and shopping habits throughout the community.

The bottom line: If the mindset of shopping at big-box stores and national chains as well as digital merchants isn’t altered, both the media companies and local businesses face a bleak future.

John Newby is author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” column dedicated to helping communities combine synergies with local media companies allowing them to not just survive but to thrive. His email is john@360MediaAlliance.net.

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