Saturday, January 06, 2007

Where is the money in Local news sites?

This just in: CEO and co-founder of BackFence, a pioneering startup that had set out to create local web sites for every community, Susan DeFife has resigned from the startup. 12 out of 18 Backfence employees have left so far.

Is the Web 2.0 slowdown already in?

Susan DeFife says
“Ultimately, we did not share the same strategic vision for the company as the Board of Directors...

Allow me to translate that:

1. The money is not coming in from the local news sites as much as expected. I guess you need at least 25% of the local population to be using the site to be able to generate profitable ad revenues.

2. Perhaps there is deficit of properly written and researched local stories – in the end; the news quality will have to stand out.

3. You will need more founding to counter efforts of established local newspapers who are slowly learning from the likes of Rob Curley about creating great local news web sites.
For money, you will need more participation. Topix has built a great Forum service.
Perhaps, local news sites may also try serving as an aggregator of local news and a host for topic forums. Even a Link aggregator such as Digg has great comment section.


At 12:40 AM , Anonymous Michael Wood-Lewis said...

I wonder if Backfence is "local" enough. At Front Porch Forum we aim at the neighborhood level. People are scrambling to join, because it's all about what's happening in their neighborhood.

Someone's care got broken-into across town... so what. Same story on your block... give me all the details.

At 3:26 AM , Blogger Tish Grier said...

As someone who hangs out among the citizen journalism community, I don't think the lack of money has anything to do with bad or grammatically incorrect writing. On the hyperlocal level, there have always been small papers that have barely made money, are distributed for free, and whose reporters and publishers feel are important to keeping the citizenry informed. Online efforts are done with pretty much the same mindset and therefore any profit made from them isn't particularly the main goal.

And if you think of it, perhaps that was the trouble with Backfence--perhaps it was a "corporate" style way of doing something that *should* be smaller.

I'd recommend looking at a site like iBrattleboro. I think you'll get it after looking at that site.

At 6:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Pramit here. For some strange reason my ISP has blocked Blogger so I can't go through the Word verification process (using Anonymouse, you see).

I have heard lots of good things about iBrattlebro. I think Tish is right - maybe it had to do something about Corporate style of functioning at Backfence.

This brings me a related issue: bloggers still do not have access to direct information versus the reporters from a traditional print outlets such as WSJ, NYT. Local news will have to improve on this and perhaps do more direct, experience reporting.

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