SMG: Subscriptions, business models, and local news

My friend Jeremy Littau wrote a Twitter thread last week that literally went viral and is worth your time. The thread came in the wake of last week’s layoffs at Gannett, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and other media outlets.

The thread referenced the prediction piece I wrote from the Nieman Lab last year about what I see as the looming subscription-pocalypse.

I think that subscriptions can work for local news outlets. The argument I make in the piece is that they can’t rely solely on them, or expect people to subscribe because of habit or obligation or a desire to serve the greater good. When people are already subscribing to national news outlets and various streaming services for music, movies, and TV, a news organization needs to make a compelling case to the reader that they (the organization) are providing something that the reader wants or needs.

Jeff Jarvis wrote this years ago and it has stuck with me: No successful business model is ever predicated on the word “should.” Local news is vital to our world. But local news organizations aren’t owed anything. In a world of subscriptions, they need to stand out.

Dr. Brian Moritz, also known as the Sports Media Guy, is an assistant professor at SUNY-Oswego. For more of Brian’s work, check out his website at