GrowthSpur aims to help local news sites succeed

Just catching up some more on great stuff about the transformation of journalism:

GrowthSpur: Mark Potts at Recovering Journalist is floating a new business, called GrowthSpur, aimed at helping local news sites have success. Potts, co-founder of the early but unsuccessful hyperlocal network Backfence, writes on his blog that GrowthSpur will help local sites get multiple revenue sources, give them tools to manage their business, organize networks of local sites that can sell ads amongst themselves, and enable what he calls “citizen ad sales” by letting local entrepreneurs get into the ad-selling business.

My take: I can’t know if this idea will succeed, but I think these type of ideas should come fast and furious as journalism is re-created. My expectation is that entrepreneurial journalism and small local sites will become more valuable in the coming years, as journalism fragments the way the marketplace has. These folks will need smart people to help them make money and make sense of what they’re doing. This might provide one way to do that.

Here are what others are saying:

  • Peter Krasilovsky, of The Kelsey Group, notes that Potts has already signed two hyperlocal sites, Chi-Town Daily News and SunValleyOnline.
  • Jon Fine at Business Week makes the point that as the audience has fragmented on the Web, advertisers are left to scramble to find a way to reach an audience through a bunch of small blogs. This plan might help in that sense if it works.
  • Jeff Jarvis, who is advising Potts on the project, writes about it at BuzzMachine: GrowthSpur will “optimize the business of local sites and blogs – hyperlocal blogs, local interest blogs, new news organizations.”
  • Wendy Parker at Ink-Drained Kvetch reflects on the idea from the standpoint of someone trying to create her own news site: “What I’ve found most daunting as I tackle the basics of building my own news site is the business side of the project, in general terms. And how to go about attracting advertisers, specifically. I know I am not alone.” (And, thanks, Wendy, for tipping me off through your blog to Potts’ original post.)
  • Greg Sterling at Screenwerk notes there is clearly a need an opportunity for this type of service, although Potts “will be herding cats in a different way again with this venture.”
  • GrowthSpur’s own blog promises to “talk about smart strategies for growing local traffic and revenue, and to feature local sites that are doing particularly good work.”

The commenting dilemma: Patrick Thornton, editor and lead writer for BeatBlogging.Org, writes a thoughtful piece on PoynterOnline about how some news organizations are encouraging reporters to respond to comments on blog posts — but not on traditional news stories. Thornton notes that this approach can be confusing for readers, especially with the increase in beat blogging, where the blog and social media interaction becomes intrinsic to the reporter’s job. I agree, and I think it needs to change.

This reticence to comment or respond to comments is a mentality left over from the old days — when news organizations broadcast their stories and readers (then called the audience) sat and listened. Those days are over, and news organizations need to keep up. If news organizations persist in harnessing reporters’ ability to comment, they risk both decreasing interaction on their Web sites and encouraging the growth of comment ghettos, where the bad apples spoil the barrel. A robust conversation is the best way to encourage more thoughtful dialog.

With that said, certainly reporters need to stay professional online. They can’t flame, troll, incite or take things personally. (Easier said than done, to be sure. But like any skill, it gets easier with practice). They can answer questions, jump into the conversation and guide the interaction subtlely, as a host at a party might float around the room and make sure the guests are having a good time.

Looking for a business model: After a blog hiatus since February, copy editor and journalism student Suzanne Yada comes back full force on her blog with two great posts. The first lists 14 blogs that she finds do a good job of writing about journalism business models. It’s a great list that includes many favorites of mine and some new ones that I’ll be sure to add to my RSS feeder. Her second post is about social media and how it must be integrated into journalism studies — not relegated to a separate class. She offers some wise tips to make this happen. I agree wholeheartedly with this. As I said in an earlier post, my hope is that someday soon we’ll stop calling it online journalism and just call it what it is: journalism.

Gina

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5 thoughts on “GrowthSpur aims to help local news sites succeed

  1. Hi Gina,
    It’s been a while, but so many things are breaking fast and furious in the print world, most of my focus is there. Lucky for me, I found my way back here.

    It’s a great, useful post. Thanks for taking the time. It’s why I love journos. At any rate I reposted a snippet over at my blog. Take a look. I would be so interested in my take on biz models taking advantage of just in print technologies. From my print centric bubble they seem like game changers. But I could use a reality check from the world of newspaper people.
    http://bit.ly/F2hpP

    Now I’ll take some time to follow the links in the last paragraph to see what other folks are up to.

  2. Everyone shouts ‘media bias’ so quickly these days, I think this format of interactive journalism (perish the notion!) could revive a dying art. A perpetual town hall meeting.
    I’m exploring the potential of something close to this. Thanks for the post Gina.

  3. @Michael J

    Glad to have you back — and thanks for the link.

    I think the weekly reader idea you have has a lot of merit. I think newspapers (or news organizations as we’re calling them now) need to consider these type of ideas. Much of the future is in customizing, aggregating news and information for narrow niches of readers.

    Gina

  4. @Greg

    I agree. I think some in the news business spend way too much time worrying about citizen journalism or watering down of the journalistic routines when they should be fighting for survival.

    Love to hear more about your idea.

    – Gina

  5. Gina,
    Thank you for the feedback.

    Sometimes out here in blablabla land it’s hard to know if one is just drinking one’s own kool-aid. Since I’m retired I have the benefit of being disinterested, but the great disadvantage of not having to defend ideas in the real world.

    At any rate, if anyone is ever interested in doing a proof of concept, please feel free to get in touch. There are lots of global print companies and local printers that are itching for a way to get this out there. I would be very happy to make some introductions.

    I keep hoping that some newspaper or community based start up will think the idea of a newspaper going in to into the rich market in education is worth an experiment. It’s a pretty longish story. The short story is that textbooks are broken and versioned newspapers could replace them, in my not so humble opinion.

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