Like many people, I read my local newspapers for the local news. Between the Internet and the 24-hour news networks, I think many of us like to give the limited amount of time that we have to read the newspaper to local stories.
Now if you’re a newspaper editor or publisher, none of that is likely surprising or especially revelatory. But despite knowing this, newspapers, including my local papers, still fill their front sections (typically referred to as the “A” section) with national and international news reported by wires services. I guess their hoping that while you’re looking for the rest of the local stories from the front page, that you’ll stop and read some likely outdated and previously reported national or international news.
Their other hope is that you’ll pay some attention to the premium advertising that fills the A section. That’s right, newspapers charge a premium for the ads that occupy much of this section. Actually, I don’t know why advertisers, given the trend among newspaper readers to local news, agree to pay premium rates for placement in a section that receives only cursory attention. Frankly, if I was an advertiser, I would be asking newspapers to provide me with stats on the amount of time people actually spend on pages in this section, just like I would want to know how much time people were spending at one of the paper’s webpages.
Now if newspapers really wanted to justify that premium and maximize the amount of time that people spend with pages in the A section, I have a simple recommendation for them — fill it with local content. As a reader, I would be impressed; to me it would seem like my newspaper was recognizing and adapting to my reading habits. Additionally, this move would likely provide more space for local content then what you typically find in the traditional local section.
Just like the suggestion I proffered on Saturday, that newspapers should consider doing away with their Saturday editions and refocus strained and limited resources, this also requires a change in traditional thinking. But this decision should not be nearly as difficult to make. For in the end, this decision is about giving readers what they want and newspaper’s putting their best work front and center, I would call that a win-win.