Godin: It’s a good time to start a newspaper (just not for journalists)

Seth Godin offers an interesting suggestion – and a wake-up call – to local newspapers hoping to get more local in a post titled Time to start a newspaper. The twist is that he’s offering this advice to real estate brokers or plumbers or anyone in local business looking to grow their local presence. And he thinks it would be easy to do:

Here’s how I would do it. Assume you’ve got six people in your office. Each person is responsible to do two things each day:

    * Interview a local business, a local student or a local political activist. You can do it by phone, it can be very short and it might take you ten minutes.

    * Get 20 households to ‘subscribe’ by giving you their email address and asking for a free subscription. You can use direct contact or flyers or speeches to get your list.

Then simply send the “newspaper” by email and watch the it spread and the subscriptions grow. It will be a “gift to the community.”

The physical barrier to entry for a local newspaper’s competition was erased more than 10 years ago when the web replaced the printing press. But there can still be an execution barrier to entry if a local newspaper owns its market and is already providing the hyperlocal coverage that readers want. Godin’s formula only works in markets where a newspaper’s journalism hasn’t evolved and still considers meeting coverage the highest calling.

The Readership Institute told us 10 years ago to write more about local people. Apparently few newspapers followed the advice if a marketing guru sees a big opportunity for non-journalists to fill this niche with a free email “newspaper.”

“Own your Zip code,” Godin writes. “The next frontier is local, and this is a great way to start.”

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