Clues in the Rubble: A User-First Framework for Sustaining Local News

By Bill Mitchell

Bill MitchellBill Mitchell

Sagan Fellow, Shorenstein Center, Fall 2009
Leader of News Transformation & International Programs,
The Poynter Institute

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This paper concludes that it’s too soon in journalism’s chaotic transition from analog to digital to settle on long-term business models. But it argues that the best path to discovering those models is a hybrid approach of creating new value for and by the users of news. The paper tracks user-focused innovations aimed at helping sustain local news, highlighting several dozen in a typology of four categories: paid content and paid experience (p. 12), advertising (p. 27), partnerships (p. 37) and new ventures (p. 45). The paper urges news organizations to assign responsibility for leading innovation in each area to staff members regarded as especially talented, enterprising and trusted. The paper also suggests 10 experiments to try in 2010 (p. 51), along with a decision-making grid to evaluate such initiatives against four key considerations (p. 53). Extensive endnotes, with clickable URLs, are included as a user resource (p. 57).

Read the full paper (PDF).