Local is dead; long live local

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A Poynter Institute commentary asks whether local news is being killed by online community:    

“People flock to task sites like MySpace, and today all ‘locals’ meet at the task . . . Local is indefensible online,” said Tom Mohr, founding director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Atizona State University, (who) broached the thesis of the death of local as an organizing principle (for media).    

But a survey of citizen media sites just published by the University of Maryland‘s J-Lab suggests that local isn’t dead yet. The report, written by J-Lab director Jan Schaffer, is based on 191 responses to online survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews at 31 sites. In a press release Schaffer says:   

“Citizen sites are developing as new forms of bridge media, linking traditional news with forms of civic participation,” said . . . Most citizen media ventures are shoestring labors of love, funded out of the founders’ own pockets, and staffed by volunteer content contributors. While they’d like more readers and revenues, site founders nevertheless professed a solid resolve to continue: 51% said they didn’t need to make money to keep going; 82% said they planned to continue “indefinitely.”  

 The full text of the J-Lab report is available online. I’ve only had a chance to scan the table of contents and glance at a few of the sections, and I’ll be eager to read more. If you can wait a print copy will be out soon. Sign up by emailing news@j-jab.com.

Mohr made his remarks about local news at a recent Newspaper Association of America conference in Las Vegas. In September Mohr founded the Innovation Lab for New Media at Arizona State University. The ASU press release says:

“Mohr was president of Knight Ridder Digital, which operated 30 sites with 11 million unique visitors each month, until it was sold along with the rest of Knight Ridder Inc. earlier this year to McClatchy Co.”

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I wrote this posting the prior evening and when I read my morning mail, I noted that David Kaplan wrote this fact-filled synopsis for Paid Content:

 

 

“Respondents were fairly evenly split over whether they expected to generate any revenue from their sites (yes, 49 percent; no 51 percent). A plurality said that the costs associated with running the sites weren’t too painful, as 29 percent said they spent less than $100 to launch their site, while 14 percent said it cost less than $1,000. Befitting their humble beginnings, start-up money for 43 percent of the sites in the survey came right out of the founders’ own pockets. Existing news organizations provided funding for 11 percent of the sites, private donors for 14 percent, while venture capital funded fewer than 3 percent of the respondents’ sites. For those sites that are generating some revenues, advertising is the primary source for 48 percent of the respondents; community and corporate sponsors generate revenue for 25 percent; individual donors for 16 percent; and grants for almost 11 percent. Fewer than 5 percent rely on subscription income.