Hyperlocal news in trouble
Whatever the future of news is, Jack Shafer of Slate doesn’t think it will include Patch.
Shafer recently wrote a piece deriding AOL’s network of community news sites known as Patch, claiming the business model can’t work with the amount of ad revenue the sites currently bring in. He had a larger diagnosis of hyperlocal news sites: too expensive to produce and not enough return on investment. He was promptly lambasted in the comments section by many in the local news business who, among other things, argued that Patch’s corporate structure causes it to be less cost efficient than independent community news sites.
Shafer may have been onto something. A recent study by Matthew Hindman of George Washington University measured market reach among local news sites, and found that local news sites together get less than a half a percent of all page views in a given market. The study focused on online-only news sites (sites that weren’t tied to “legacy media” such as TV stations or newspapers), but had trouble building a data set because many local news sites didn’t even reach the threshold of page views required to be included. The implications of low page views, of course, mean limited advertising revenue and ultimately, perhaps, a failed business model.
The Nieman Lab issues a number of fair criticisms, most notably that it may not be correct to include non-content consuming activities, such as online banking, in measuring what share of page views goes to local news sites. While this adjustment might make local sites appear to fare slightly better in the online landscape, the overall result is nevertheless startling.
Shafer’s read of the hyperlocal world may have hit close to the mark. Based on the results of the study, it would be an understatement to say that outlets looking to monetize web-based local news are facing an uphill battle.
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CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow reports that a group of residents at Devens, the former Army base, want to form the state’s 352nd town.
Boston’s fiscal watchdog and the city’s schools tussle over the use of unadvertised, no-bid contracts, CommonWealth reports.
A group seeking the recall of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua submits the 150 signatures needed to start the process, the Eagle-Tribune reports. In an editorial, the Eagle-Tribune calls Lantigua the “mute mayor” for his failure to explain his actions to the newspaper.
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Boston city councilor Charles Yancey rips Mayor Tom Menino on crime.
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Rick Perry and George W. Bush get into a Texas shootout.
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WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook sifts through the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case with reporters from The New York Times, Newsday, and Slate.
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ETC.Radio Boston talks with Victoria Reed, the curator of provenance at the Museum of Fine Arts, and hears the ownership history of Eglon van der Neer’s Portrait of a Man and a Woman in an Interior.