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Let's Get Local Press Engaged Online

Newspapers Must Be GlobalBernard Goldbach in Clonmel | 300 words

AS THE METRICS from the Economist at left show, to survive in this hyperlinked world, newspapers need a global audience. That would include our local papers in Tipperary.

The comScore graphic shows what happened at the start of 2012--the New York Times lost its top spot in comScore’s ranking of the world’s biggest newspaper websites to Britain’s Daily Mail. Some say that's comparing apples to oranges because the Old Gray Lady is a proper broadsheet and the Mail is an unapologetic red top tabloid that commands a big  online audience incorporating a personal finance site that the paper owns.

There's actually a bigger story behind the numbers and that story reflects a growing trend of  national news publications going global. I can see that trend on my Kindle subscriptions where the Irish Times outsells the Irish Independent in the Kindle version (the reverse of the print edition sales). In the comScore stakes, a mere one-quarter of the Mail’s online readers are in Britain. The Economist report explains that "The Guardian, which caters to those who like their news left-leaning and serious in contrast to the Mail’s right-wing raciness, has one-third in Britain and another third in America."

Then there's the the Huffington Post, which since its launch in 2005 has become the biggest site of the four (it is not in comScore’s “newspaper” category).

As The Economist says, "That the HuffPo is beating papers with a history stretching back to the 19th century is a sign of just how differently news works online. The HuffPo is designed for the wired generation’s short attention spans and addiction to social media; alone of the four, it has managed recently to increase its 'stickiness', the number of stories each visitor reads. And it mixes both hard and frothy news (much of it rewritten from other sources, though an increasing amount is original) with generous dollops of opinion by guest bloggers."

If my local newspapers--the Nationalist, the Tipperary Star, and the Limerick Leader--expect to survive, they need to adopt a HuffPo model and invite a younger crowd to write edgy 200-word illustrated content, primarily for online subscription sales. And if they fail to do this, my five year prognosis is that at least one of them will fail to remain on newsagents' shelves in the year 2017.

The Economist -- "News of the World", March 17, 2012.


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