Aug 19, 2010

Hyperlocal hypersports and the nationalization of local news

Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in America, plans to launch 100 "hyperlocal" high school sports sites that will be patched together on the platform. PaidContent writes:
This current sports effort will begin this month in 38 Gannett media markets, including Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Denver, CO. The full rollout is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
This patchwork approach to coverage (also AOL's model for its Patch sites) is probably the future for newspaper chains and national media companies, as they go smaller, more local and more niche with their coverage but use their vast resources and broad name recognition to create a regional or national networks based on common themes. It's sort of what the fragmentation of the small- and medium-size newspaper was heading for anyway.

Is it hard to imagine MediaNews, Belo and Gannett partnering on a regional high school sports network that pushes scores and updates to mobile devices while feasting on what's left of the auto and mall advertisers in Southern California?

It would make sense under this model for other popular beats - cops, courts, schools, weather - to be strung together and published on similar platforms. Readers might turn to a regional or national Gannett-run network to get their local police blotter, for instance. The model uses fewer journalists, offers a single focus and yet still allows the company to sell ads on a regional or national level.

It's not the greatest news for journalists, given that the coverage is almost certain to lead to fewer jobs, require less skill, offer less interesting experience, and create a box that eschews enterprise or creativity.

Here's how Ken Doctor sees it in his examination of AOL's Patch:

The fact that Patch is getting such recognition, and discussion, is another indicator of how thoroughly journalism has fallen on hard times. The announcement of the hiring of a single journalist in a single community? That was the stuff of internal newsroom memos not too long ago. It’s as if the news industry is struggling to rebuild itself, cell by cell, just as researchers are figuring out how humans themselves can regenerate lost limbs and organs.
At the same time, Doctor points out that the oxymoron of national chains doing hyperlocal is probably the way of the future. Here's why (again, using Patch as the example):
It seems to me that scale is a plus in a couple of ways: 1) national ad sales (witness the Pepsi Refresh campaign running across the current sites) and 2) technology costs, with one centralized production and presentation system, one that should be able to get to market quicker with tech innovations. In two important ways, though, scale will be of a lot less help — and these are core to the site’s promise and success: 1) local content production and 2) local ad sales. Patch, with its organizational structure, will get some efficiency boost through regionalized ad selling and some content sharing (as sites with a common school district may combine coverage, for instance). In the main, though, the hard work of gathering local news and selling local merchants isn’t greatly helped by the national brand.


Anonymous said...

And Internationalization - word has it that SGVN's advertising department is out sourcing ad creation to India.

Anonymous said...

ad creation to india is years old. and, what may i ask will they be creating in india...they don't sell ads any longer. exactly what will they be creating? National and majors send camera ready ads. there isn't enough local ads in retail or classified left.

Anonymous said...

You would hope there would be proven revenue success with PATCH before
others jumped on the wagon, but that’s how we seem to do things now?

The Press-Enterprise has been very successful in their micro-local
sports content with the DMN following the same practice.
That success has not translated to local news coverage with the decline of
a one-time high of nine zoned sections and the overall failure of citizen journalist
to keep the micro-local community sites viable on the web (this is nationwide).

With Gannett moving to regional layout/production facilities throughout the nation
it’s hard to believe that this move would help the other corporations.

Could be interesting to see how it trends to local coverage like the Little League tournament….who provides coverage, PE, SB or Palm Springs?

Anonymous said...

They aren't in India yet. Heard they will be laying off there graphic artist that are currently at the SB Sun.

Anonymous said...

newspapersare for the most part a joke and these people are the leaders of the pack.