Avoiding the desert: Why news subscriptions matter
Some news organizations, such as Forum Communications, have been able to continue investing in journalists and content while maintaining a hybrid mix of print and digital news delivery.
This week, Forum Communications Company is celebrating its inaugural Trust Week, which is dedicated to highlighting what makes local news credible, engaging with readers on media literacy, and educating our communities about why journalism is so important.
While the objectives outlined above are the main focus of Trust Week, we also hope to use this platform to inform readers about the importance of news subscriptions. And we won’t be coy about it – we hope to sell them, too. Here’s why:
Subscriptions fund journalism. So does advertising. It’s not an either-or equation. It’s more like a both-and equation.
Without a healthy mix of subscriptions and advertising, communities like ours become news deserts.
A 2021 Tow Center for Digital Journalism report estimates that was the case for 300 community newspapers that ceased operations between 2019 and 2021. Expand that timeline to include the past 15 years, and one-fourth of all of the country’s newspapers have gone away entirely.
For some local communities, the newspaper going away doesn’t mean the end of news altogether. More and more news outlets are moving to all-digital delivery in order to sustain their operations, such as several serving Alabama.
While some have shifted their business models to all-digital delivery, others have chosen to keep their printed product and instead slash the journalism resources used to produce it, resulting in a continued print product that’s essentially stripped of any local reporting.
Some news organizations, such as Forum Communications, have been able to continue investing in journalists and content while maintaining a hybrid mix of print and digital news delivery. How? It takes backing from family-owned leadership that understands content is at the core of our products, and support from communities that understand subscriptions and advertising are vital to keeping local news alive.
In the most severe cases though – which are not all that rare, sadly – news outlets have shuttered their doors entirely, converting their communities into complete news deserts. But what does that look like, beyond a tumbleweed blowing through a once-buzzing, desolate newsroom? For starters:
Local controversies going unreported.
No more watchdogs keeping up with school board and city council meetings.
High school sports matches left unrecorded.
A detrimental gap in local context on national issues like pandemics or other health crises.
And fundamental public policy no longer being shaped by community discourse.
A report from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media touts that as much as 85% of news feeding our democracy originates with newspapers . Journalism regularly sets the agenda for public dialogue on policy issues. Editorials recommending specific action often directly influence legislation. Coverage of policy and political leaders has been shown to strongly affect voter turnout. A study on the impact of newspaper closures in the Journal of Financial Economics cited that, without local journalists reporting on wasteful spending, governments often become less efficient and residents wind up paying higher taxes as a result.
This is what happens when a community becomes a news desert. This is why we ask for subscriptions. This is why we ask you not to copy and paste a paywalled article into the comments section on social media so everyone can read it for free. The negative effects of losing local news are endless. We are fortunate that we don’t yet know them firsthand in our communities.
So, what do you say? Would you spend $1.15/week to ensure your elected officials are kept accountable, your kids’ milestones are chronicled forever and you can keep a pulse on the issues that directly impact you? If so, you can see our various subscription options here . Thank you for your support.
Stephanie Schroeder is chief customer and marketing officer for Forum Communications. Send us your feedback at email@example.com.