News without Newspapers

An interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times about the advent of hyper local blogs and the ways in which they’re picking up some of the slack in communities that are seeing long-established papers disappear. The piece (like *ahem* bloggingbelmont). The piece, by Claire Cain Miller and Brad Stone, looks at a couple blog aggregators like EveryBlock, which is based in Chicago, and Patch which focuses on the New York suburbs. I was surprised that Boston’s own Universal Hub wasn’t mentioned, because it seems like the perfect example of what the story was talking about. But the NYT writers did give a shout out to Placeblogger, another local news aggregation site that is run by Watertown’s own Lisa Williams (of H20Town fame). Sadly, they didn’t interview Lisa, who has a lot of great things to say about the resurgence of local media. 

The story in the Times hits on a few interesting points. One is the explosion of local blogs in the past few years as software like WordPress (which BloggingBelmont uses) makes it easy for folks to set up their own blogs and start covering the world around them. The other is the paradox of local blogging. First, many of the most well known hyperlocal blogs still rely on traditional “mainstream media” outlets for much of their real news content. The other is the paradox of local blogging as a business, to whit: 

“One problem is that the number of readers for each neighborhood-focused news page is inherently small. ‘When you slice further and further down, you get smaller and smaller audiences,’ said Greg Sterling, an analyst who has followed the hyperlocal market for a decade. ‘Advertisers want that kind of targeting, but they also want to reach more people, so there’s a paradox.'”

That’s food for thought. Of course, local bloggers would be wrong to think that newspapers (at least those that are still viable) can’t see the same trends and will just stand still and let themselves be elbowed out. Here in Belmont, Citizen Herald editor Tony Schinella notes that the paper’s parent company CNC is revamping 24 of its properties, including the BCH, in the months ahead. The redesign will affect botht he print edition with a new look, layout, fonts and expanded sections, etc. CNC will be polling its subscribers and BCH will be reaching out to members of the community to act as an advisory committee to help guide the changes. 

And, as BloggingBelmont nears its second anniversary (April 25th), I’ve also got changes planned to broaden the scope of the blog and make it more reflective of Belmont as a whole. These are interesting times, indeed!