I met recently with an editor of a national newsmagazine and asked a simple question: If you were to create a new section, how many reporters would you hire?
“Reporters!”, he responded. “I would hire a handful of bloggers, steal from other parts of the magazine, and put out the section online.”
The New York Times announced today that it is partnering with a Web company called FWIX to launch the equivalent of a whole bunch of extremely local special sections on nytimes.com. FWIX uses powerful software to gather links to news and blogs from more than 160 communities in six countries.
Investment for the Times? No telling, but it is safe to say, significantly less than staffing reporters in 160 cities!
So, the latest improvement at the New York Times, perhaps the most prominent international news source in the world, involves using local bloggers and the reporting of local newspapers.
Think for moment about how topsy-turvy that is.
In this article on similar “hyperlocal” efforts, I mentioned Outside.in, which provides hyperlocal content on more than 50,000 neighborhoods based on the work of local bloggers and publishers. Mainstream media understand the potential. Among the Web site’s investors: CNN. Among its customers, Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
As media analyst Ken Doctor wrote on his blog, “It used to be that 1,500 daily local papers brought their readers the whole world — from city to state to nation to globe, with business, sports, lifestyle and entertainment tossed in. The Times, the Journal and USA Today were the three national reads, supplements to the local dailies, with local single-digit penetration in any metro market.
“Now those roles are getting reversed. The local dailies are increasingly becoming purely local, and the national papers are getting local, adding local print editions, getting hyperlocal, finding ways to serve their readers’ (and advertisers’) needs beyond national/global.”
My colleague, Rob Berick, and I collaborated on an article recently on the importance of social media to a company’s stock price. Members of the National Investor Relations Institute can find the article on the organization’s Web site.
Doctor sums up the changing media world with a touch of frenetic frustration. “It’s a confusing landscape. What’s local? What’s national? What’s digital? What’s print? It’s a patchwork age, and nobody’s got the answers, but as home turfs have shrunken everywhere, everyone’s looking for new lands to conquer.”
It’s also a land of opportunity for an increasingly fractured media world. After all, the growing demand for local news is increasing the opportunity for GOOD bloggers and citizen journalists.
Let’s hope the media find them in big numbers.