What we can learn from the newspaper industry
I’m several episodes behind in my listening to This Week in Tech (TWiT). A few days ago I was listening to an installment from early July, and one of the topics discussed was the changing paradigm for newspapers in the internet age. Their particular example was the Tampa Tribune, whose editor came to the realization that the online component of the paper was no longer just an adjunct to the printed version – they needed to start viewing the printed version as an adjunct to the online content. And that if they don’t make this shift, NEWSPAPERS WILL DIE.
That shift in approach involves all sorts of changes to how the business of publishing the Tribune is carried out – economic, structural, and procedural. When news is a commodity easily acquired for free from a huge array of sources online, how do you maintain a business model?
There are a couple of things that papers like the Tribune are focusing on: becoming more “hyperlocal”, and shifting from becoming merely a dispenser of news to becoming more a facilitator for discussion. Becoming “hyperlocal” means focusing more on local issues and activities in the local community. In the Tampa Tribune’s case, one result was to shut down their Tallahassee bureau, since Tampa locals were less interested in Tallahassee happenings, and the local Tallahassee paper could probably do a better job of covering that scene (and putting it online for anyone to see).
Becoming a facilitator for discussion of the news means shifting from a one-way model of dispensing information to a two-way model that includes feedback and discussion. While there has long been a limited feedback loop in the form of letters to the editor, this new model of feedback and discussion is immediate and has a very low barrier to entry. And many old school reporters and writers don’t like this new model – they’d rather dispense to the public, not discuss with the public.
Why am I writing about newspapers? Well, I see a lot of similarities to the church. If the church wants to keep new generations engaged, it needs to
a) become more “hyperlocal” in its mission and outreach, providing many opportunities to serve those in need within the local community in a very active, hands-on way, and
b) shift from becoming merely a dispenser of theology to more of a facilitator for discussion about theology, faith, and living the gospel – including letting worship be more of a dialogue rather than a monologue.