In this week’s Business Week, Jon Fine’s Media Centric column is titled Down And Out In The ‘Burbs: Turns out it’s tough to make local work on the Web.
There are media geeks who have been waiting ten years for the Web to take over community news. Pick a town, preferably one in a well-heeled suburb, that’s underserved by the big metro newspaper. (What suburban town isn’t underserved by the big metro newspaper?) Set up a site incorporating the superstructure of this online age: blogs, places to post video, interactivity everywhere. Stoke audience participation, use some variant of the phrase “citizens’ media” at every opportunity, keep staffs small, sell ads to tightly clustered readers.
Trouble is, it’s not working financially, neither for well-funded community media startups like Backfence nor independents like iBrattleboro.com. How about Northfield.org? Probably the same but I don’t know for sure.
And how are the small town newspapers doing? Better than ever, evidently and much better than their metro counterparts. In Fine’s March 8 blog post, he writes:
The Northfield News and its parent company, Huckle Publishing Inc., (will they ever have a website?) are likely doing very well financially.
What could the Board of Directors of Northfield Citizens Online do differently when it comes to generating revenue?