A Crazy Idea for Funding Local News: Charge People for It

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[Commentary] There may be another way to save local news. The plan, for any would-be entrepreneur brave enough to try it, goes like this: Hire some very good journalists; just one or two are O.K. to start. Turn them loose on a large metropolitan area — try San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston or any other city going through waves of change, and whose local press has been gutted by digital disruption. Have your reporters cover stuff that no one else is covering, and let them ignore stuff that everyone else is covering. Don’t do movie reviews, stock market analysis, Super Bowl coverage or anything else that isn’t local. Instead, emphasize coverage that’s actionable, that residents deem necessary and valuable for short- and long-term planning — especially an obsessive focus on housing and development, transportation, education and local politics. Package it all in a form that commands daily attention — probably a morning email newsletter — and sprinkle it with a sense of community, like offline and online networking events for readers. How will you fund all of this? This is the most important part: Shun advertising. Instead, ask readers to pay for it with real money — $5 or $10 a month, or perhaps even more. 


A Crazy Idea for Funding Local News: Charge People for It