Most of you know there’s a big debate regarding whether newspapers should charge for online content. (I don’t believe they should). But that’s an argument being had among the big boys. It obscures the more pressing debate — should newspaper put all of their valuable content online?

If a newspaper has competition within its market — from a strong television presence or another newspaper company — then it should have a strategy that puts its breaking news information online free, but pushes users to revenue-generating products, There’s little reason to put all content online. (The Star Tribune has figured that out. They’re holding back some of their prime Sunday content as “print exclusives.” and I hope they make that standard operating procedure.)

But we forget that most newspapers aren’t part of these debates. They’re in towns like Delphos Ohio, Cullman Alabama or Boscobel Wisconsin. Products like these don’t have meaningful local media competition, so users have to go to their newspapers for information.

If those companies don’t have to put information online, they shouldn’t, by in large. I say “by in larger” because they can offer a website with minimal information. For example, they could list the scores of the high school football game but give no other information. While the town will be abuzz about the score, there’s only one place for customers to go to read comments from the star player, coaches, and the opposition. To get that, you have to buy a newspaper.

There’s also an opportunity for more revenue. Small town people are big on high school sports information, I think there’s a big opportunity to create an advertiser-supported and revenue-producing email newsletter with more details than the online site, but less than the newspaper site. There also a chance to create online-only subscription section of certain hot-button topics. All of this is passé for most of the larger newspapers. But for the smaller guy, many haven’t gotten their yet.

Here’s hoping they do.

My blog will now appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday since those are the days it gets the most traffic. I’ll be happy to expand that to Saturdays if the demand warrants.

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