Thursday, February 20, 2014

A local , digital, successful news enterprise? Maybe, someday...

NOTE: A departure from blogging about my IMC graduate school topics to offer a test post of what I hope the future of Liebling Realized might be...a place to talk about the future of journalism and the field's successes and failures as it evolves across our ever-changing digital landscape.

The old axiom "all news is local" has always held meaning for me.  The news people tend to focus on is that which connects most closely with their lives. 

That's why I was excited when AOL in 2009 acquired and began pushing for widespread growth of, a network of "hyperlocal" news websites with locally based editors generating local news content.  This seemed to me to be both a local and national response to the increasingly digital way we get our news.

Unfortunately, Patch hasn't taken root as had been hoped, as two Long Island journalists and former Patch editors I know, David Reich-Hale (@drhliand Jason Molinet (@jmolinetcan attest.  In the interview below, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong makes the case that the company's commitment hasn't dampened in Patch, even with news of the divestiture by AOL of a majority of its stake in the venture. 

Unfortunately, the massive layoffs and site closings of the past year or so have dramatically dampened the spirit of those of us who welcomed Patch's introduction.

Can local news be successful in a digital world? 

The folks at Digital First Media seem to think that the way to combat this changing nature is to "unbolt" the digital news function from the traditional operation of a newspaper.  "Project Unbolt" as it has been dubbed, will attempt to reconfigure the way Digital First newsrooms, news decisions, news gathering efforts and more operate to ensure that digital distribution and collection is the foremost priority -- above print.

I learned about Project Unbolt by reading The Buttry Diary, a blog by the Steve Buttry (Twitter: @stevebuttry) , the company's digital transformation editor.  In a January 30 post, he describes what they expect the characteristics of a successful "unbolted" newsroom will be.  It's a worthwhile effort that I hope bears fruit.

And the fruit better be tasty...

As an avid consumer of news, and believer in the positive power of professional journalists and journalism, I hope Digital First finds success.  And I hope that success is replicable because Gen Xers are tuning out.  The Poynter Institute has shared data that young people spend roughly 40 percent less time consuming news than Baby Boomers do, showing "a willingness to bump into the news as they go about their way on social media" rather than actively seeking it out.

With local, digital, successful news enterprises, we might be able to turn that tide.

No comments:

Post a Comment