Community is the New LocalPosted: September 22, 2010
A doctoral study out of the Missouri School of Journalism may have just formalize the new classification of local media. For time, local news has been network TV syndicates, local dailies and then other combinations of public broadcast or less frequent newspapers. The online world has mirrored that, generally, except for local blogs here and there.
Generally speaking, the data from the study is interesting. Maybe the only thing that leaves it as an outlier is the fact that survey was available by links on these sites, so it was dealing with a known audience. Still, with more than 1,100 respondents across 19 sites, you get an idea that there is something different going on in the online community news realm.
All things considered, we need to figure out some defining characteristics for the hypercommunity sites associated with things like Patch (or even those more focused on regional) that have become the flavor of the year in journalism. These aren’t individually run or even networked blogs, but associations with professional journalists who are looking for alternatives to newspapers, in my opinion. That’s where the bullpen gets stocked from 80 percent of the time when building out a community site. The way I see it, the strength and growth of community news sites has been on the backs of people who’s day jobs would be in a news room, looking to reinvent their model.
I think those who should be most worried are probably the “weekend bloggers” who still offer legitimate services to their communities. Unless community sites pull a TBD and bring the independent blogs directly into their content, the only way to get that news impact is probably to become the professional. I’m not saying these bloggers don’t have the chops – actually, having worked directly with some of the best bloggers in my city, I know that they actually may have honed the skill fairly well. What I do think it is apparent, though, is that supporting independent news ventures is going to get a lot harder without a community.