Newspaper giant Gannett had launched a hyper-local online news service two years ago, hoping half its content would be comprised of user-generated material and that it would bring added local advertising revenue. The service included sites covering more than two dozen towns in New Jersey, under the heading InJersey.com.
Gannett last week announced it was shutting the sites down, as a result of more massive layoffs throughout the company -- this time, about 700 jobs are being cut. Gannett says their reporting staff has been cut too thin to handle such local reporting, while the sales staff is also so thin that they simply can’t do the job of seeking hyper-local advertisers. They also say the audience hasn’t been large enough too attract many advertisers.
So as Gannett continues cut local news coverage in its regional print newspapers, its experiment with local news online has fizzled.
An interesting ray of hope in the area of hyper-local news and information is something called Patch.com. Formed in March of 2010, it’s now in 22 states and the District of Columbia, providing professionally written news for some 875 localities. I don’t know what their business model looks like, but I do see local and national ads on their sites, and I hear people in communities they serve referring to Patch as an important local news source.
The Patch website says Patch is run by professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers who live in or near the communities they serve, with support from a team in its New York City headquarters. The site says they look for communities of 15,000 -100,000 population that are underserved by media and would benefit by having access to local news and information about government, schools and business. These could be inner-city neighborhoods or distinct towns.
Readers and PR people take note. Patch.com is something to keep an eye on.