It is shocking to me how many newspapers did not adjust to the times and create revenue through their websites or Internet presence. One newspaper that could not survive independently was the San Mateo Times. In 2016, the San Mateo Times merged with the San Jose Mercury News. Basically, the newspaper was unable to continue to support the journalists and staff members so they had to consolidate and merge with another paper.
As I wrote about The Topsail Voice Newspaper, there are plenty of ways for small town and local newspapers to increase traffic to their website. While this likely won’t cover all the costs of running a newspaper, it sure would supplement some of the costs that linger for any print publication. Instead, most of these small town papers decide to put all their content behind a paywall and hope that locals will spend $5 to $10 a month with a subscription.
Think of all the long tail keywords that would show up in Google search if newspapers would publish their content for free. Years ago I considered creating a website solely about small town news because sometimes you just can’t make up some of these stories. Imagine the stories and news bites that would have come out of 2020. These small town newspapers would have been linked by the NY Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post and every other major news outlet that generates millions of website visitors.
Just think of how many views a newspaper article or a series of articles about a small town murder that became a podcast would get. These types of stories get mainstream news and then the website gets more powerful with each link and each visitors that comes from Facebook, Twitter and all the referring websites.
Once again, it is quite obvious that website visitors alone cannot keep a newspaper running. What I know is that the more users a website has, the more valuable it is to someone looking to buy, lease or rent web space. If the San Mateo Times can show they are receiving 2.5 million website visitors a month, they can increase their ad revenue significantly. If they are going to hide their content behind a paywall, they are never going to get more than a few thousands website visitors on a consistent basis.
These small town locals still want to read a print newspaper so if they are consuming the San Mateo News they are reading the print version and not subscribing online. If the small town newspapers disclosed how many people signed up for the online edition, it would be quite sad.