News and publishing: Inverse scale?

56 percent, 36 percent, and 30 percent — the share of large, medium, and small news organizations that have experienced lay-offs since January 2017, according to Pew. These are interesting numbers that describe the inverse scaling problem in news. After the New York Daily News cut half its staff yesterday, New York is facing a lack of local news coverage. Yet Tronc, the owner of the Daily News, said it will concentrate on breaking local news.

The problem is, the Daily News will not maintain beats to uncover news, rather it will simply focus more on covering stories when they break. That’s a reactive approach when a proactive, deep-digging press is needed to ferret out real news, you know, the issues that impact our lives, policy-making, and other material issues citizens face every day.

Back to the numbers. If large papers are being cut deeply, with 56 percent suffering lay-offs in the 16 months of The Pew Research Center’s study of newsroom attrition, perhaps smaller papers are the way to go. That is, focus more on local activity and leave break non-local news to bigger news organizations. Only 30 percent of smaller papers were hit by lay-offs, though it is likely because they have been cut before. However, they may have stabalized as publishers realize there is a lot of money is well-made local news and information.

The net has inverted news coverage while the newspapers and many online organizations blithely focused on fewer traffic-driving topics, allowing smaller news teams to do a better job.

Every community — physical and virtual — needs coverage. Launching and running a publication is never easy. Local or specialized coverage can be affordable, but not on the traditional newsroom model that attempts to provide a global view of events. Beat-based tenacious reporting uncovers news people need. Apparently, that’s working for smaller papers and sites that don’t try to implement news gathering in the industrial model. Local craftspeople make local news.

 At minimum, the smaller papers (which include their on- and offline offerings) seem to be finding an equilibrium between the market they cover and the cost of covering it. More small, very targeted news sources can respond to our crisis of confidence in media by returning to the news’ primary function: Explaining what is happening instead of mostly concentrating on who is winning.

Larger newspapers – those with circulations of at least 250,000 – were more likely than smaller-circulation newspapers to have experienced layoffs between January 2017 and April 2018. Nine of the 16 newspapers with circulations of 250,000 or more (56%) had layoffs. By comparison, that was true of 16 of the 44 newspapers with circulations between 100,000 and 249,999 (36%) and 15 of the 50 newspapers with circulations between 50,000 and 99,999 (30%).

Source: About a third of large U.S. newspapers have suffered layoffs since 2017

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.