One of the things I've seen pushed as a way forward for newspapers is hyper-local focus. Heck, I've pushed the idea myself. However, I've been thinking about that, and decided that there's not really much there for newspapers, either. Why?
Well, the audience for that stuff is very limited to begin with. There just aren't that many people in an area interested in local high school sports or local council meetings (at least, not in an advertising supported or subscription supported model, anyway). There's another problem, too - go and sit in on a few local meetings, and you'll discover something: the local "gadflies" - people who are extremely interested in an issue. Twenty years ago, these people wrote letters to the editor, sometimes got columns of their own in local weeklies, and generally followed the affairs of the group in question (school board, what have you) closely. They weren't on anyone's payroll, either - I remember one older woman who was very involved in school board issues when I was in high school (I remember this because my dad was a teacher, and hated where she stood on these issues :) ).
Those people still exist, but now their voices are louder: they can start blogs, hit Twitter, set up Facebook sites - instead of being the "crazy old coot" no one ever hears, they are becoming a hyper-local source of news on a specific topic. No large media organization can compete with that: they have to pay a disinterested reporter, while the committed guy just shows up.
Now, you might argue that there's a loss of objectivity there, and you might be right - but reporters are just people like the rest of us, and it's really hard to be both interesting and totally objective. What's this add up to? Hyper-local is no solution, at least based on the current media model. It might be possible to become a news aggregator on the local level, and treat these hyper interested parties as stringers, but I rather suspect that the "metro section" model is completely dead.
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