© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

This business model could save the Midwest's weekly newspapers

Ways To Subscribe
1st edition KS Weekly Herald
Kansas Historical Society
The Kansas Weekly Herald, Vol. 1, #1 was printed on September 15, 1854 in Leavenworth, Kansas, and was the first newspaper in the state.

Relying less on ads and subscriptions and more on memberships and tiered benefits may allow rural weeklies to keep reporting local news.

These days, most people consume the news online — and that has been a disaster for newspapers that run on a business model little changed since colonial times.

That lack of change has come with devastating results. During the pandemic, more than 100 local newsrooms shut down, according to The Poynter Institute. In fact, since 2004, about 1,800 newspapers have shuttered, including 1,700 weeklies.

Hope for these mostly rural publications — often serving populations of a just few thousand — may lie in a new project led by the University of Kansas. Based on surveys in Great Plains states that asked publishers which revenue streams they preferred and readers what content they wanted to read, researchers came up with a model for non-traditional means of generating income.

Teri Finneman, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, says the pandemic drove home the importance of these small, local publications.

"This was a time when it was absolutely critical to have a local newspaper. There was no other way to get this critically important information you needed about the pandemic," Finneman says.

One publisher ready to give the new model a try is Joey Young, owner and publisher of Kansas Publishing Ventures. He bought his first paper 10 years ago at age 27. Even then, he was not happy with the subscription and advertising income model.

"I don't think that's typical of my industry right now," Young admits, but as a business looking for new revenue sources "having streams from multiple rivers is better than one."

Stay Connected
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.