The Publishers who are Tapping the Untapped Market for Local Print

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is thinking ahead, according to Kristen Hare writing in Poynter.

“One year in advance, staff photographers shot images of the Minnesota winter for next winter’s StarTribune Magazine,” Hare writes. “The quarterly magazine debuted Sunday, marking a new product for a newsroom that’s worked hard over the last year to become more digital.”

That’s right … in the midst of recognizing the need to embrace digital, they are boldly launching a new print magazine, taking pictures now for next year’s issues.

According to Editor Sue Campbell, it’s a bit of a calculated gamble. Of the 225,000 paid subscribers to the newspaper who had the opportunity to opt out of the $1.99 quarterly, only about 5% did.

“We took a bet that our readers would value it and that our advertisers would value it,” Campbell said.

Hare notes that the StarTribune is not alone in taking a fresh look at print in their business model.

“In North Carolina, the mobile-first startup Charlotte Agenda is planning a printed visitor’s guide,” she explains. “In Pennsylvania, LNP Media Group launched a new weekly print-only publication focused on state politics.”

“The economics make sense,” said Ted Williams, Charlotte Agenda’s cofounder and publisher. “Web text is a great way to build a brand, but impossible to scale in local media. Print is a viable way to make money and has a clear sales proposition in which you’re not competing head on against Facebook and Google (whose ad products are incredible).”

Let’s be clear that this is not a nostalgia trend or an appeal to a less tech-savvy readership. It’s an evolution of how readers are now consuming news, using the Web for the quick bites, and engaging in print for the deep, lasting dive.

“Most media should be consumed on the internet,” Williams said. “But print is still the best way to deliver information that can be referenced. For example, we’re using print for a Newcomer’s Guide that has a shelf life of at least a year.”

For local publishers, perhaps it’s time to take a strategic look at new print opportunities in regional markets. As Hare asks, does the audience want this? Are advertisers biting?

“…so far with issue one, we’re feeling like, yep, people are ready to see this again,” said Campbell. We imagine they are.