Friday, July 06, 2007
The Death of Citizen Journalism (Or Not)
So, does the end of Backfence tell us that citizen journalism is dead?
Yes and no.
First, the idea itself is a bit off. It makes many assumptions (ie, how many citizens will be journalists? Is journalism really the output we want? etc).
That said, Backfence's death tells us more that hyperlocal isn't the way to go.
Why? The reason is pretty obvious if you use a hyperlocal site: most places are, well, boring. Sure, London, NYC, and SF have lots of hyperlocal sites - but most towns and smaller cities just don't have the liquidity on the supply side (ie, restaurants, events, burglaries, etc...) to drive any kind of network scale.
Put another way, there is little to contextualize and create value.
Now, we are missing the forest for the trees here. "Citizen journalism" happens every second of every day - and we are all increasingly reliant on it. When I read 5 blog posts/reviews/blah blah telling me which kind of engagement ring to buy, that's citizen journalism. It's just not hyperlocal.
I'd add that the whole concept of journalism being local is the result of historic consequences, namely, that papers where printed and distributed in a locality. Obviously, that doesn't transfer to the new medium.
While there's a place for hyper local journalism, it's in print - the free, 80% local advertising paper delivered to my mailbox every week seems to be doing fine. However, I never use the net for hyper local news. I don't think it's just a matter of availability - the breadth of the net shifts my interests as I surf to issues with a broader appeal.
Punxsutawney may be boring to you but it is far more interesting to the people who live there than Pittsburgh. And advertising in Punxsutawney publications would provide local businesses with much better value than advertising in State Newspapers and Yellow Pages directories. After all isn't hyper targeted advertising why google is so successful?
So if Backfence didn't work - what would?
What would you differently to make something like this work?
would you do what Rob Curley is trying to do or not?
Hyperlocal journalism is not dead.
WestportNow.com, the 24/7 news and information source for Westport, Conn., is in its fifth year with readership soaring every month.