All About Richland

The World Turned Upside Down: The Last Decade In Richland County Media

30 Dec , 2019  

With this post, published as the 2010s wind to a close, 1812Blockhouse begins a look at profound changes in how Richland Countians obtain information about their community. We will post additional installments in the coming days.

Part One: Prologue

In December 2009, someone living in Mansfield, or Butler, or Ontario and wanting local news had a limited set of options.

The media landscape in Richland County has changed dramatically in the last ten years. And the seismic shift which has occurred, while echoing national trends, is perhaps as great a change as has taken place anywhere in the country.

Heading into 2010, the county was served by a handful of daily newspapers, a local television news bureau, and at least one radio newsroom. The venerable Mansfield News Journal had joined the Gannett network in 2000, and while the paper’s circulation numbers had begun to decrease, it still sold some 30,000 papers on weekday afternoons and almost 40,000 on Sundays. WMFD and WMAN had news operations, as did daily or weekly papers such as the Shelby Daily Globe, Ontario Tribune-Courier, and Bellville Star.

Things had begun to change, however, as the dominance of print media had begun to erode and would continue to do so throughout the decade. This erosion took place in two key ways.

First, traditional newspapers cautiously and slowly developed an online presence to complement their print product, which itself had begun to shrink in size and content. The News Journal had an active website as far back as 2001, and by 2010 it had become more robust. Still, however, that site, and those of other local newspapers, were little more than placing their print content online — they were not, in terms which would soon develop, “digital first” publications. The December 31, 2009 “front page” of the Mansfield News Journal’s website can be seen here.

MidOhioLive’s launch party invitation

This move to online was echoed by WMFD-TV and the county’s radio stations – particularly those who retained local ownership.

Second, something quite new was appearing at the time of the beginning of that decade that would transform the ways in which Richland Countians obtained their news.

On January 1, 2010, there were a handful of online-only local media sites in the country that had begun operation, so few, in fact, that they were often labeled as “pioneers.” None of these were in Richland County, but one, GalionLive, had developed a readership in adjacent Crawford County as one of the first two or three such websites in the Midwest.

That site was soon joined by a sister news operation in Mansfield called MidOhioLive.

Developed in late 2010, MidOhioLive became Richland County’s first digital-only news site when it launched at a festive event in downtown Mansfield on March 18, 2011. With a background of music provided by Yellow No. 5, the actual “flipping the switch” took place to activate the site. Not tied to any existing newspaper or operation, MidOhioLive quickly developed an audience and was supported by local advertisers during its operation.

It was at this time that the process began which led to the creation of Richland Source, which would begin its journey in 2013. Unlike MidOhioLive, Richland Source was backed from the outset by substantial funding that allowed it to build substantial operating capacity before going live, a capacity that rivaled that in large metropolitan centers. The new company behind Richland Source soon secured production space in Temple Court.

In our next post in this series, we will continue this look at the last decade in Richland County media.

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