If It Was Really Gone, Would You Really Miss It?

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Over the years, one of my more favourite sayings when looking at traditional media and how it is evolving with new media is: "everything is ‘with’ not ‘instead of’." Because it’s just an opinion, it’s always interesting to see what certain polls and surveys say.

"Nearly half (42%) of Americans say they wouldn’t miss reading their local newspaper if it were to shut down, and only 43% say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community ‘a lot,’ according to research from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press."

That was news yesterday from Marketing Charts in their news item, Local Newspapers Won’t be Missed by 42% of Americans.

So, the future of the newspaper industry is not hyper-local and it’s not about covering the events that no one else is covering in your local neighbourhood? That seems shocking.

Is your gut reaction that this is because of the Internet? That more and more people are turning to the Internet for all of their locals needs? Or, is it simply because the news moves and happens faster online? Or, is it because of the environment? Meaning, the business of killing trees and transporting the printed word every which way is no longer a reasonable business model?

Turns out it’s not what you think.

"When it comes to local news, more people say they get that news from local TV stations than any other source. About two-thirds (68%) say they regularly get local news from TV reports or television station websites, 48% say they regularly get news from local newspapers in print or online, 34% say they get local news regularly from radio and 31% say they get their local news, more generally, from the internet."

Interpreting that data might suggest that it’s not about the digital channels as much as it is about the fact that people would rather look, listen or interact if given the choice prior to reading.

There might be an argument to be made that the decline in interest in newspapers and magazines is less about the Internet and much more an issue of overall literacy.

Update: Clay Shirky has an excellent post on his Blog worth reading titled, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.


  1. I no longer subscribe to my local newspaper but read it online. I would miss it if it went away. Howver, I almost never watch local news on TV. It takes too long. Anything worth watching on local TV news is online. If local TV went away, I wouldn’t even notice.

  2. I can’t ever remember reading my local paper. Ever. I’m sorry to say it, but if it were gone, I would not miss it one single bit. In fact I would be happy, mostly for environmental reasons as you point out Mitch. As it is now, we get 2 local papers per week (for free) and I take directly from the mailbox to the recycle bin without even opening it. I don’t think I’m alone either.

  3. Great article Mitch.
    The stats didn’t seem all that surprising really. When it comes to local news I personally rely solely on online feeds from CBC or other reputable sources. For national or global news I rely on CTV News and sources such as CNN.com and CNN on the tube.
    In our local market it seems like just a matter of time before they fade. Not only does it seem like their news is recycled and out dated they haven’t found a way to engage users in a meaningful way.
    Would I miss it? I would if it were a solid useful source of information I could use where and when I see fit. Times have changed and so have our habits. Keep up people.
    Looking forward to your next post.
    Bill McGrath

  4. I check one page of my local paper every day: The Crossword.
    Online is faster, and more environmentally sound. If BlogTO produced a daily crossword, I’d never even look at a newspaper again.

  5. Mitch;
    Unfortunately, many local newspapers aren’t really reporting on local news. They use syndication, and AP reports that frankly, I’ve already read. I actually don’t think local television is much better. Often it’s “rip and readâ€? off the news wires (or the internet) -and if you are already connected, who needs the rehash? Think Marshall McLuhan’s, “The Medium is the Message” and often the medium is unbearable. I like the serendipity of things that aren’t in my Google Reader, but then, is anything better than following a diverse group from Twitter who post frequently?
    Perhaps people in general are a little less local these days too. It may be a big deal that a neighborhood auto dealership that’s been in business for thirty years is closing shop and has implications to the local economy; but it competes for attention with a fire in Australia that’s treated as though it were in California. Not a bad thing, just means some other story gets cut.
    Finally, literacy may be a part of it, but I think it’s about human behaviors. Although I’m sure most would agree their local TV stations often have insipid delivery, content or both, people are social and like to have the chatter going on in the background. There’s something still soothing about the electronic fireplace. (Hmm, don’t people often use newspapers to start the fire? I won’t explore that symbolism here.) For many people reading a news account is like a form of research. Even when reading online, there’s that little thrill of discovery that comes with research. I don’t know if there are studies segmenting it, but I would be willing to bet the investigative reports and series of articles that probe into a local story, if well told, garner higher readership.

  6. A nice insight here. It makes me think as the news providers will look increasingly similar… television already provide written articles online and newspapers provide video content on theirs.
    But the death of the local free paper is not happening in London any day soon*… just take a commute on the tube morning or night and experience the sea of newspapers extending down the isles.
    Next steps… a medium needs to become widespread that allows for conveniently upload and stow news content (audio, visual, written)… a combination of mobile phone and digital paper that will always be at people’s sides.
    Go far enough into the future and I can see contact lenses that augment reality and provide a means of information delivery with ultra convenience.. ha, okay now I’m sounding a bit science fiction. Anyone got any other suggestions?
    1. Papers are an easy way to pass the time (no view outside the window)
    2. No reception underground
    3. Technology to upload news content to and consume not yet universal.

  7. Mitch, Great post, thanks for sharing.
    One problem I see with the disappearance of any reputable, local news source is that news breaks in one outlet and is picked up by other local, national or international outlets as well as bloggers and others online.
    With many news outlets closing their doors, less is being produced – and shared. As a media consumer, I wonder which stories will not be covered or investigated if the local paper does go out of business and if the local paper’s influence is sometimes underestimated because stories often quickly travel from one outlet to the other.

  8. What is “local”? I live in the San Francisco area. For me, everything from San Jose to San Francisco is “local”. In that space we have 3 “major” papers just on my side of the Bay. We have multiple overlapping “local” papers and at least one “county” paper. Far too much physical paper. Much of it is ads. Put it on the web or combine into one area news sheet.
    My real “locality” is the things I’m interested in. I care what’s happening in the world of tech. Some people care about sports. People with children care about the school system.
    I don’t really need hyper-local “news” because it’s not important to me. When I consider a 50-mile radius my “neighborhood”, a paper that covers things within a 5 mile radius isn’t useful.

  9. Ummm. I wonder how little folks are aware that so much of the local TV news (radio too) is taken directly out of the local papers.

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