Today, Google announced that Youngstown, Ohio, will be the first city in its Compass Experiment, a joint venture with newspaper publishing company McClatchy to revive local news. The announcement couldn't be more timely, as Youngstown's long standing publication The Vindicator will close its doors on August 31st.
The Compass Experiment, part of the Google News Initiative, aims to develop sustainable business models for local news organizations. It plans to launch digital platforms in three mid-sized communities, with the Youngstown site going live this fall. In addition to covering local news, Compass will test a variety of revenue models. The goal is to make each operation financially self-sustaining and to share lessons learned with other publications.
While Compass could help fill the news void in Youngstown and the two other yet-to-be-named cities, it could also serve as a model to increase local coverage across the country. According to the Pew Research Center, the estimated circulation of daily newspapers in the US fell to 28.6 million in 2018, down from 48.6 million a decade earlier. And Facebook recently admitted it's having a hard time finding enough local news. To make matters worse, companies are still fighting the spread of fake news.