Following my meeting at The Westerly Sun with Publisher Tim Ryan and Managing Editor David Tranchida (yes that’s my pops!), I’m left thinking about the future of local newspapers and I need to figure out how can a local newspaper, with a circulation around 12,000, utilize social media as an additional revenue stream??

Leverage your brand and your location

Local news organizations are the trusted source of town news and events. For this reason I believe there will always be a market for organized local news reporting and local news organizations. Local newspapers like The Westerly Sun have an advantage. First, they already have an established trust among their circulation, so there is a familiarity and a relationship that has developed locally over the years. Recognizing this, local papers need to leverage their current credibility and brand awareness online. By demonstrating their local knowledge and expertise through acts of sharing the information within their local community. I’m referring to answering the question, “What should I do tonight?” “Where should we eat?” etc. A local newspaper can certainly answer those questions. More importantly locals who just so happen to be reporters for the newspaper can address those questions as well.

As I mentioned, The Westerly Sun already has an established fan base with a circulation of nearly 12,000. It’s time to engage your local readers. Who is your circulation demographic? How many of the 12,000 in circulation are visiting your website and reading your Epaper daily? What is the average age of someone who reads the print edition vs. the Epaper? Find the answers to those questions and start thinking about what medium(s) you might use to engage your consumer. Where are they spending their time and why? What pages of the Epaper get visited most often? How many pages and how many minutes does a person spend reading the Epaper?

Once those questions have been answered The Westerly Sun will be able to figure out its next short-term and long-term moves.

The conversations I’ve had concerning The Sun and social media always return to posting information on a blog or social network with a story brief or summary and link to the full story on the newspapers website. While this may be a temporary solution, it’s not going to work over the long-term. You’ll attract a few new readers maybe, but then the question becomes – what do we do with the print edition and do we charge for the Epaper?

Understand that newspapers generate the majority of their revenue through selling ads on their website. This revenue pays the bills and keeps people employed. However, the traditional newsroom model is fading fast. A new website project funded by AOL called Patch is the new local newspaper. Individual reporters who live within a town in your state will be paid to provide local news coverage specifically about your town. Now, who do you trust more, a local newspaper such as The Westerly Sun who has a history of credibility or the a reporter updating his “Patch”?

The Patch model combines blogging and news and it’s manageable because the “Patch” is specific to one or two small towns. How does The Westerly Sun compete with Patch?

In your opinion, which model offers more trustworthy content?  Would you rather visit for your local news or do you have more confidence in paying to read an Epaper published by The Westerly Sun?