How One Startup Is Rebuilding the Local News Model

Sep 02, 2020

How can communities bring back local journalism AND create a sustainable business? Bert Carder, the COO of Local News Network (LNN) in Durango, weighs in on the challenges and business opportunities. LNN was recently awarded a Colorado Advanced Industries grant and is currently participating in the SCAPE Program. 

By Bert Carder, COO of Local News Network in Durango

It’s no news that local news has been dying in slow motion for two decades. Successive technological and economic assaults have destroyed the for-profit business model that sustained local journalism for two centuries. Since 2005, more than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have disappeared and half of the journalists let go, leaving residents in thousands of communities – inner-city neighborhoods, suburban towns and rural villages – in vast news deserts.

Map of American "News Deserts;" source TheLocalNews.us

As of 2019, there were 1,740 counties in the USA with limited or no local news.  From civic reporting that holds local government accountable to human interest stories that celebrate our neighbors, the loss of local news is damaging to communities everywhere. With little or no access to information on issues that are important to them, communities are being served up sensational, divisive, national news via social media and nationally-owned “local” publishers.  Statistics for these communities are now showing lower voter turnout, lower graduation rates, lower median incomes, etc.

Much of the decline was inevitable. The traditional business model has collapsed for news organizations and thus far a viable alternative has failed to emerge. There are many causes for the decline in local newsrooms, the most notable of which has been the rise of Google and Facebook, and the subsequent collapse of the advertising and classified revenue models that sustained newspapers for decades.

The Poynter Institute recently asked its readers why local journalism is important. Among the dozens of responses, one in particular stood out:

“Local public media stations are like public libraries and local museums in that they preserve culture, educate and engage in order to build understanding on important issues that are expensive or difficult to cover.”

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Study, local news is still important to Americans. Nearly half of U.S. adults (46%) named local news outlets as a major source for COVID-19 news. And yet, the pandemic has put even more financial strain on local news outlets. 

So what do we do? How do we provide local news and run a sustainable business? I believe Local News Network (LNN) has a solution.

Our Durango startup was launched in April 2019 by a team of local journalists and entrepreneurs who wanted to build a profitable model for small and suburban towns to bring back their local news. Using short form video media, LNN is distributed via a digital display network in high-traffic environments (like banks or DMVs) and on-demand with YouTube.

LNN’s news and distribution platform brings together the best practices and technology from four separate industries into a single operating solution that Local Affiliate Partners can use to start their own Local News Network business in their town. In addition to bringing back local news, affiliates provide an effective marketing platform for community businesses, keeping advertising dollars in their town. 

LNN’s Platform combines:
1.    The relevancy of local news programming (Newspapers/TV) produced locally
2.    The usage of short form video media, which is widely accepted (YouTube)
3.    Direct distribution of media to consumers through a digital display network in high traffic environments (Digital Billboards/Out of Home (OOH Network), 
4.    Online amplification using mobile optimized online news portal (Online) and mobile APP (Mobile) so viewers can find us anytime and anywhere.

LNN is making its platform available for journalists, video producers, entrepreneurs, chambers and even existing news and media publishers who need a new business model to survive. LNN has already expanded to four towns in Southwest Colorado and has plans to grow to 125 more locations in the next 60 months. If you are interested to learn more about LNN, go to: www.thelocalnews.us.

 


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