It has been said by an unknown author, “Small business isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s for the brave, the patient, and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer.” While local media (usually the local newspaper) have taken their financial hits in recent years, the long-awaited death of newspapers has been wildly exaggerated. It is often said, the success of the local business base is largely based on the success of the local media. Before we discuss the strategy that can lead to a solid return for local businesses, let’s focus on the reality of local media. One must place the current print audience in perspective. More people across the country read an average Sunday or weekend newspaper than have watched the Super Bowl in any given year.
While print newspaper audiences have declined in recent years along with every other advertising and marketing option, they have made up for that lack of print with growing and robust digital audiences. Hands down, they have the largest combined audience in nearly every local community across the country. What other media outlet captures or speaks to between 30-60% of their community’s audience? Let me answer that question, none!
Make no mistake, it isn’t just the percentage of audience they reach. More importantly, it is the make-up of the audience they reach. What media can say they reach nearly 50% of the above 45-50 crowd? This is the crowd with the greatest amount of expendable income among the various generational groups. This is the group most connected within the community. This is the group more likely to cast a ballot in the local elections. This is the group that still embraces the ink on paper form of reading.
What does this mean for small and medium-sized local businesses in your local community? Let me suggest a path forward for both the media, local businesses and the community.
It is no surprise media derives much of their revenue from both advertising/marketing dollars along with their audience or subscribers. A newspaper’s ultimate success and survival rests in the hands of the local business base and community. That being the case, it behooves local media companies to embrace the “Truly-Local” mantra as well as “Shop Hyper-Local” mission. Bear in mind, I didn’t say local, I said hyper-local. That is locally-owned and operated businesses, not national chains and big boxes located in your community. While balance is necessary, the national chains and big boxes do nothing to assure the local media and local business base survive.
Local media companies need to work with local businesses to market a re-imagined hyper-local strategy. They need to work with local businesses to create rewards and incentives encouraging hyper-local spending. They need to constantly pound home daily in their editorial and story content the need and desire to support the community by spending hyper-locally. In short, the local media may be the only viable way a community can become educated regarding the critical needs for hyper-local spending. The dangers of spending local dollars with establishments where profits go to pave the roads in a far-off corporate headquarters city in lieu of your own roads rest with the local media.
This partnership needs to be a two-way street. The local businesses need to work with local media companies on strategies that create win-win partnerships between them. While the media companies need the business community to thrive, so does the business community need the media company to help change the mindset and shopping habits throughout the community. The bottom-line, if the mindset of shopping at big boxes and national chains as well as digital isn’t altered, both the media company and local businesses face a very bleak future.
America was built on the backs of small business and local media. Small business and local media have always been the road map to sustainable community success. Communities working together to overcome the obstacles in front of them will win. Time is short and certainly of the essence. It is time for local media companies to reach out and take the lead in this battle for hyper-local spending mentality. It is also time for the local business community to embrace the media in working to solve this problem. United, you stand. Divided, you will most assuredly fall.
John A. Newby, author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street “ column dedicated to assisting communities and local media companies combine synergies that allow them to not just survive, but thrive in a world where truly-local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.