Many more questions for Gary Pruitt out there as he and his McClatchy team make the rounds. (Pruitt is in New York this week talking up his company to the analysts. McClatchy shares had fallen 10% since the KR purchase announcement, though they're up recently. Good salesmanship.
Busy week. Meanwhile WebHead Chris Hendricks and VP/News Howard Weaver make the rounds of press and paper, as the Little Company That Wants To, saying all the right things about humility and letting local be local in two Poynter interviews.
This in to Content Bridges from a Washington-based correspondent, preferring anonymity and pondering the zen of national/local in how McClatchy may operated an expanded Washington Bureau.
If the merged DC bureau goes with the McClatchy model, the national and international reporting that was the hallmark of Knight Ridder's DC coverage will suffer.
If it goes with the Knight Ridder model, the local reporting that was the hallmark of McClatchy's DC bureau will suffer, since many smaller papers likely will opt not to pay for a DC presence.
Isn't that just a perfect reflection of the national/local paradox of online news publishing?
It’s the online news trade’s dirty little secret. Ask most metro news online site managers, and they'll tell you that 50% or more of their traffic comes from outside their metro areas, reaching as high as 80% in some. (Try selling local advertising against those numbers.)
Given those numbers then, managers and editors have done quite a tap dance trying to get the local/national equilibrium right. Their question: how to deeply and uniquely satisfy those with strong local interest and serve national news expectations and needs.
Of course, that's something print editors did for a decades -- but largely without the competition that news aggregators like Yahoo, MSN, Google and Topix now provide.
For online publishers and managers it's a tough paradox: They like to claim they know their communities best and are the ultimate local news and ad providers, yet their Internet site use patterns are often far less locally oriented than their papers. Part of that is due to the technology limitations that have crippled online presentation of the depth and breadth of newspaper event and calendar information.
The solutions will lay in good functionality and good decisions. Three main ideas:
- Use What You Paid For!: Clearly, news companies need to harness all the stories and data they already have paid people to produce and make it Internet-accessible in close to real time. Make double use of all those legacy costs.
- Let the Readers Decide: Want a mainly local front? A mainly national one? A hybrid? Provide the tools that let users decide. And don't build themselves; license the best.
- Network: If the awful death of Knight Ridder wasn't sufficient warning (like a friend who dies of a heart attack at 53, after years of knowing about, but not paying attention to heart disease), learn that the Web is all about network, networking and distribution. Don't put a lot of effort into redoing National at all local sites, but create truly state-of-the-art national/global news products that can be networked, with all sharing in the ad money. Martin Nisenholtz (NYT) and Caroline Little (WashPo), maybe it's time again to try syndicating national news products among your newspaper brethren. It's a call Gary Pruitt -- in promoting both profits and quality -- should be happy to take.