LJWorld.com weblogs Devin Lowell's Community Journalism Blog
Whatever Shall We Do?
Last Thursday, I found myself fortunate enough to be invited to the fourth annual Montgomery Family Symposium at KU. The symposium was a day-long forum of newspaper editors from around Kansas discussing the future of the media market in the state. Several pioneering news organizations posed their ideas while the rest of us listened intently, trying to glean a way to start making money again.
At the symposium, I served a dual role as the only student representative from the William Allen White School of Journalism, and as the inevitable heir to daily newspaper in a very small Kansas town. Now, the part of my day that I bragged about to my friends was eating lunch at the table with KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Journal-World publisher Dolph Simons, John Montgomery, who's family sponsored the event, and KPA head Doug Anstaett. But it was hearing the innovative media ideas from around Kansas that really made my day. I believe very strongly in the importance of a local press, and I want to bring anything I can to the table to help the family business stay solvent.
Of course, the biggest focus was the online component of a news organization. With many papers, large and small, this idea of "online" is expanding beyond just a news website and into social media, like Facebook and Twitter.
Some of the complaints I heard concerning this came from smaller papers, unsure of how to monetize their online presence. This is a qualm I also have with the online approach. I just don't know how to sell ads on a website to business in Concordia, Kansas. With a graying population, they are just not concerned with an online presence. As a side note, I think the website for my family's newspaper is just kind of ugly.
Despite these contentions with a heavy online presence, such as the one the Lawrence Journal-World has with it's myriad websites, or the Salina Journal does, with its Salina FYI page, several small, quite unique, ideas emerged from the symposium.
One that certainly caught my eye came from the Hays Daily News. From the obituaries on their website, you can hit a link and send flowers directly to the bereaved.
Now here's an idea that, while it may pose a few problems, really gets at the kind of innovation small-town papers need to survive the transition into the online world. While I would be hesitant to introduce this idea back home, if we could conquer the logistics of it, then I could easily see this popping up back in Concordia. We need little ideas to get that push to online going, both for the news organization and for the readership. The small-town paper is going to need to modernize its online presence and keep it up to date, while driving traffic and readership toward that presence.
Hopefully I can borrow a few of the ideas I gathered the symposium and send them back home, to keep the old shop afloat just a little longer.