National, just smaller
June 28, 2016 11:15 AM   Subscribe

"I think now is the perfect time to start (or restart) a local digital news operation. There are few greater gifts in journalism than a blank sheet of paper." In CJR, editor and entrepreneur Jim Brady (@jimbrady) on why and how now might finally be the time for local journalism in the USA to find a business model that works.

From the article, some recommendations for local people doing news right:
"That’s why it’s so encouraging to see so many entrepreneurs out there trying their hands at local. On the for-profit side, there’s Billy Penn and The Incline, its soon-to-be sister site in Pittsburgh, plus Berkeleyside, Charlotte Agenda, Mission Local, ARLnow, Baristanet, the Watershed Post, the upcoming Denverite, and many others. On the nonprofit side, there are early pioneers like Texas Tribune, Voice of San Diego, and MinnPost, plus new sites popping up seemingly every week. Spanning both models are members of the Local Independent Online News Publishers group (LION), including sites such as The Batavian, Richland Source, The Lens, and many more. Journalism consultant Michele McLellan tracks the growth of local sites at Michele’s List."
posted by Potomac Avenue (13 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
A nice hyper-local version of this trend: Capitol Hill Seattle.
posted by cult_url_bias at 12:12 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping this will encourage more, you know, non-geriatric involvement in local politics. We get really involved with these grand political wars at the national level while local elections and issues get short shrift.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 12:27 PM on June 28, 2016


Berkelyside is multi-time per day read for me. They are so good at both the immediate (e.g. "There's a major fire happening right now") and the in depth long term, like this article on illegal school enrollment, a long time controversy in Berkeley. Just (as always!) don't read the comments. Ever.
posted by Frayed Knot at 1:07 PM on June 28, 2016


In Denver, as mentioned in the FPP, Denverite recently launched, staffed by young folks plucked from the Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder. This is my first time looking at it, since seeing the Poynter story that the Nieman Lab story cited in the FPP seems to have drawn from -- and I must say I don't think it lives up to the hype, at least not yet. But then again the Post is laying more people off, after not enough older staffers took a recent buyout offer, so maybe this is the future after all.
posted by Clustercuss at 1:16 PM on June 28, 2016


We have two local rags but one is more of a magazine and one is more of a blog:

The Rapidian is supported through grants from a community media center.

If the River Swells is, I think, just a few folk who post now and then about gentrification.
posted by rebent at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2016


That's a decent retread of some well-known issues (and a nice shoutout to some great sites), but I'm not sure I want to take advice on launching successful media startups from Jim Brady.
posted by not_the_water at 1:36 PM on June 28, 2016


The problem with hyperlocal news is that it's not, really. Ultimately, expand or die. Before Berkeleyside there was/is Berkeley Daily Planet, an equally well-read website for a time, undone by not getting city records business and not expanding towards Oakland and Contra Costa county.

There is a big movement here in the UK on hyperlocal media and have been some notable success stories. But most are isolated, issue-focused, or faith-resolved which makes it hard to read on the community most of the time. Berkeleyside has had to produce events, a secondary site focused on food, and appealed for monthly members to sustain its basic reporting: a mix of links, crime reporting, property news (arguably newspapers' strongest remaining market), city and university news. I think Tom Dalzell's column is good. Frances Dinkelspeil is a good writer to, but I found the review of her book off-putting. Why not just print the first chapter like newspapers used to do as serials with the coupon to purchase?
I tried to pitch saving the planet almost a decade ago. Tried also with a consortium to develop advertising for Daily Cal before it was bailed out. Too small groups run hyperlocal and since memberships are not shares, just like listeners' guilds are not unions, they end up hitting their peak very early and flaming out. Berkeleyside may be benefiting from a level of benign self-interest, but that's just the Berkeley way.
posted by parmanparman at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Writer, too. Editing closed.
posted by parmanparman at 2:34 PM on June 28, 2016


I hadn't seen that Poynter article about the overhaul at DMN. It's giving me all the anxieties to think about initiating that massive of a culture shift at a legacy news outlet, but kudos to them.

One shift that seems to be gaining traction, given the tremendous decline in ad revenue and the need to build subscriber loyalty, is better audience engagement. The work being done by Hearken, Groundsource, and Free Press are exciting examples of the future(s) of local media, built on the foundation that local news needs to serve all of its community, not just the audience that advertisers used to covet.

And in the interest of self-promotion, a bit about how my organization is identifying how local audiences want to be involved in local journalism.
posted by MetalFingerz at 5:01 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]




I'm not sure I want to take advice on launching successful media startups from Jim Brady.

I doubt Brady would claim he did everything right at TBD but it's not like Allbritton gave him all that long to make it work. I'm not sure we can know whether it would have worked with more time but from my perspective as an affiliate site it didn't seem like they gave it long enough to be sure it was going to fail.
posted by phearlez at 7:52 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't think of anyone better to take advice from than someone who put everything on the line and didn't succeed. Advice isn't leadership which may or may not be Brady's strong suit. Actually it's the opposite.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:09 PM on June 29, 2016


TBD.com was a fiasco that was typical of Allbritton's crass understanding of internet advertising sales. Having access to advertising accounts at two local franchises, it didn't want to cannibalise sales at its leaders and as a result of the narrowcasting of TBD.com, not hyperlocal, it failed to reach advertisers who might have left City Paper or the local freesheets. But freesheets have the double coin of paper and internet ads with a solid revenue base. Jim Brady didn't know this.
posted by parmanparman at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2016


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