A lot happened in the first month of 2021 that confirmed many of our greatest suspicions from last year. The collective desire to consume timely information continues to be higher than ever despite an economic crisis in the local news industry. Social media is also proving more unreliable than ever as a vehicle to establish a business brand and connection with your community.
That is why local news and mom-and-pop businesses are poised for a great resurgence this year — as long as they redirect their energy from social platforms and invest in each other. Antitrust lawsuits and threats to pull Section 230 protections will not stop social media’s market dominance. Instead, it will take a mutual commitment between local news operations and local companies to support each other moving forward.
Fortunately, both sides stand to benefit from this renewed partnership. Many news outlets took a beating in 2020 because extended COVID-19 quarantine lockdowns and other health safety measures depleted business revenue, leading to a reduction in advertising spending across many sectors. Community journalists have reported on this dire situation to great lengths, and audience analytics show that readers are consuming this exclusive local reporting more than ever before. These local, community-minded readers are exactly what local businesses need to survive and thrive moving forward.
In the past, small businesses took their limited marketing budgets and mostly invested into social platforms that supposedly target their audience. But we’re learning that social platforms only reinforce silos instead of exposing members to potential new opportunities. In addition, businesses also have to make sure their social media marketing aligns with their brand while avoiding social media companies and content whose association can negatively impact their company. That is why those small marketing budgets must be rededicated to local media sources, keeping that money local where it will be more effective and enable the business to align its brand with a credible, community-minded local news outlet.
News publishers have a chance to meaningfully connect with local businesses, potentially obtaining new advertisers that gain additional customers who help sustain and grow the local business community. Before you know it, 2020 could become a bad memory made better by a prosperous 2021.