Friday, September 28, 2007

hyperlocalism in a way that is both local and hyper

Discussions abound still about the move towards "hyperlocalism" by corporate newspaper chains, the irony of laser-focused local coverage apparently entirely lost on a corporate boardroom that has never seen some of the cities they're dictating changes in.

Meanwhile, as it always does, true innovation in real local coverage comes from--guess who--locals that give a shit about their communities, not about making stockholders happy. A wonderful example of truly hyper localism was referenced today by Gapers Block (a great example of ground-up localism at a slightly-less hyper level): The Marshfield Tattler.

You've got to love any site that begins reports with phrases like, "I haven't had a chance to write about the new family down the street," or, "Yesterday afternoon, I ran into Jesse on the street. I hadn't seen him for a while" (that entry under the title "Guess Who Got the Microwave?"). It's truly what's important to the author about her community, from events to people, to the routine. It's a chance to see her world through her eyes. It's not "real" journalism, but it's a hell of a lot more interesting than most of the hyperlocal examples being trotted out by big business and it lets' you know a lot more about the community to boot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Is content truly free now?

Publishing 2.0's Scott Karp has a brilliant analysis of the concept of "free" content that stands most of the conventional wisdom on its ear. His argument--and I'd have to say that it's ringing pretty true with me--is that of course content isn't free: we pay for internet access, we pay for computers, etc. The problem is that by and large we won't pay twice, once for distribution and once for content. You only pay once to have a magazine brought to your door, not a second time to open it--why would we expect something different from the Internet? Of course in the digital age, you're paying someone else for distribution. And therein lies the problem.
Everyone is thinking about the shift in the economics of content in terms of paying for content, but what publishers are really facing is a shift in the economics of distribution. We’re still paying for a bundle of information to be delivered to our homes — it’s just that now that bundle is traveling via fiber optic cable rather than newsprint.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Content, paid and otherwise

With the New York Times announcing that their idiotic TimesSelect subscription service is finally coming to a close, the web has been filled with the pronouncement that paid content has finally and absolutely been proven impossible to pull off. I think that's a false assessment of the situation, since TImesSelect--a service that essentially just put their opinion writers behind a toll booth--was a poor decision to begin with. In addition, it overlooks (as, let's face it, these things always do) the fact that niche journalism has been able to and continues to be able to pull off paid content (Josh Hooten's excellent being an example that springs immediately to mind).

All that said, Jeff Jarvis, who I often find to have drunk a little too much of the Kool-Aid, does raise a good point that's often overlooked in the whole print vs. digital debate when he says:
Don’t let anyone tell you that this is bad for the content business. It’s only good sense. Having worked in the magazine business, I saw this even at the dawn of the internet: As I said above, a magazine has to pay up to $30-40 in marketing costs to acquire subscribers; it can pay up to $5-7 to print and distribute a copy of a glossy magazine; it has high editorial costs. Add that up, and a magazine can find itself in the hole $60 or more per subscriber in the first year of a subscription. And they get as little as $1 per issue in subscription revenue. Yet clearly, a magazine can make money because that subscriber’s value to advertisers is much greater.

It’s the relationship that is valuable. It’s the relationship that is profitable, not the control of the content or the distribution.

Well said and exactly right: The amounts spent on acquiring readers for print publications is huge, and it's much simpler online where good content can act as your best marketing tool. Toss in the actual physical cost to print (not write) and distribute and you've got even more money on the table. Take all that out of the equation and you begin to make up the losses due to the lower cost of online advertising.