Digital explorations and transformations are not limited to the big metropolitan dailies. I like what I read about experimentation at the very local level. Read on.
It is true that we see tremendous and constant experimentation with technology and digital platforms with such newspapers as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, among others. They have the resources for such experimentation. Smaller newspapers, both dailies and weeklies, are not so lucky. What they do have, however, is a brand that is recognizable and total dominance for coverage in areas where the big metro papers rarely go.
Now, I am delighted to see that there is some good, effective experimentation with advertising and technology for some of these papers.
A recent piece in Editor & Publisher informs us about Mark Nienhueser, who was a 2015-2016 fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, University of Missouri.
“The hypothesis heading into the fellowship was that the Missouri Press Association needed to be able to help their newspapers get into the digital side of things,” Nienhueser said. “What I was finding was that most of the dailies had it somewhat figured out, but most of the local weeklies didn’t have anything at all.”
So Nienhueser and his team set out to create variety of services for small newspapers to make better use of the technology available, such as website creation, social media management, programmatic advertising, YouTube TrueView ads and hands-on training.
Perhaps one of the most exciting new things happening with these small dailies has been the partnership of some with Nextdoor–the private social network for neighborhoods that was launched in 2011. Nextdoor is an app that allows people to stay in touch with each other in a neighborhood for such things as finding babysitters, learning about an upcoming block party, or hearing about a rash of car break-ins.
The private social network, which allows users to connect with neighbors in their community, recently added newspapers to that list. It seems like a perfect fit.
By partnering with Nextdoor, newspapers can target where they post stories down to the community level, giving them the ability to share hyperlocal news that is highly relevant to specific communities. The articles appear in Nextdoor’s newsfeed in the app and website, as well as in the Daily Digest email that members receive. In addition, neighbors can share story ideas or tips with newspapers through Nextdoor.
To date, Nextdoor has partnered with several dozen local news entities covering a cross section of the US.
This development shows that experimentation and transformation are not limited to the big metro newspapers. It also reaffirms our belief that some of the most successful experiments are going to aim at the smartphone.