The Media Oxpecker: When Hyperlocal Doesn’t Add Up

Every week we round up industry news you may have missed.

  • “Is print dead or is it that the strong survive?” asks Tippingpoint Labs vice president Rebecca Garnick. Niche publications, she says, are in the strongest position:

    Publications with very focused content and a deep understanding of the audience are going to survive. Look at McSweeny’s Lucky Peach quarterly journal. At $12 for a single issue, it is not a small investment — in print no less. No content found online. But every Chef and die-hard culinary enthusiast reads it. Devours it actually. Readers lose themselves in the articles. And then, we keep it as a resource. Oh, and guess what – Lucky Peach barely has any ads.

  • The only way to save local newspapers is to break up the national chains, says Robert Niles:

    When the Internet destroyed local newspapers’ control of the flow of out-of-market news information in their communities, it eliminated many of the economies of scale that justified local newspapers being bought up into large, national chains. What good is a deal on wire service content when your readers can get that same information for free elsewhere on the Web? (And you can just link to it from your website.) When journalists can use consumer-grade technology to produce their publications, what’s the advantage of maintaing a large, slow-moving, change-resistant, central IT department? What’s the sense in paying for a large national sales force when the unique, defining characteristic of your audiences is that they are local?

    … So the expense of paying for regional and national management is an expense that legacy newspapers carry that their local-owned and operated independent start-ups do not. That places those chain-owned newspaper companies are a permanent cost disadvantage to their start-ups – even if those newspapers could reinvent their operations to match the start-ups cost efficiencies in every other area.

  • “Honestly, if hyperlocal is not core to a media organization’s business, then a media organization cannot possibly be fully engaged in it. Large media organizations cannot afford to cover large geographic areas in a hyperlocal way using exclusively paid staff.” The Nieman Journalism Lab breaks down five things The New York Times learned from its three-year hyperlocal experiment.

  • Is Patch putting pressure on its local editors? They say yes. A company spokesperson says no.

  • Publicly traded news organizations are trading above book value, suggesting that investors see value and are willing to pay a premium to own their stock.

  • But the smart money isn’t in content or advertising, it’s on Big Data:

    A number of estimates have online video consumption overtaking traditional TV in 2016. This shift will be driven by a more personalized viewing experience. How about a personalized guide that recommends live and content based on a viewer’s interest graph? How about connecting viewers only with ads that are relevant to them? How about offering similar viewers bundled subscription deals on, say, travel and leisure content? This is why media providers need to use Big Data — to not only better understand their viewers, but to engage them one on one with a truly personalized experience.

    But will our data become more useful than we want it to be? “There is so much latent information in what we’ve uploaded or said on social networks,” writes Alexis Madrigal for The Atlantic. “The technologies are under development to unlock it, but our brains can’t forecast what that will mean for our privacy.”

  • The New York Times announced that subscribers would have access to the entire paper on Flipboard. “For the newspaper, the partnership marks the first time its subscribers have been allowed to get full access to its content through a third-party platform,” said CNET.

    “Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new era of platform intelligence,” wrote Kim Bui:

    It’s high time we step away from our traditional outlets — be it radio, newspaper, or TV — and look at where our audience is and how we can serve them there best. That’s the whole point of iPhone apps and responsive design, right? It’s serving our audience on the mobile platform.

    TechCrunch co-editor (and former VVM staffer) Alexia Tsotsis was not impressed by the announcement, beginning her blog post with, “Fuckers I am so sick of reporting on incremental tech news for fucking two years now, so sick I’m pretty much considering reverting full-time to fashion coverage … But yeah, The New York Times took a step towards the future this blasted Sunday night and all of us tech press are expected to cover it like lemmings.”

    Responding to criticism of her post, Tsotsis told Poynter, “For the most part I think the writers in my industry are just crap. Really crap. The worst.”

    At TechCrunch, she tries to encourage her colleagues to inject more voice and emotion into their work. She’s pleased with the post and amused by the reaction to it, even if, she says, it didn’t get a lot of Web traffic.
    “I still think that post is supergood,” she said. It’s the kind of thing she’s hoping to encourage other TechCrunch writers to let rip now and again. “If one of my writers wrote that, I would let them do anything they wanted for the rest of day.”

  • Slate’s Farhad Manjoo reverse engineered several BuzzFeed slideshows and found that the secret to its viral success is taking popular Reddit threads and repackaging them, often without attribution.

    “So what?” says Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic. That’s what Hollywood has been doing forever by releasing sequels, book adaptations, and reboots:

    [The] micro-backlash against BuzzFeed is misplaced. BuzzFeed is a hit-maker making hits the only way reliable hits can be made: By figuring out what’s already popular and tweaking them to make something new.

    Gawker’s Adrian Chen sees something else going on:

    [BuzzFeed senior editor Matt] Stopera’s lifting is the result of an extreme aggregation logic that approaches words as just another form of content, to be remixed and copied without worrying about their source. The whole internet is trending in this direction: The top story on Reddit on any given day is likely to be some image scanned from a newspaper, a quote misattributed to Ghandi, or a Youtube video of a ’90s cartoon.

  • A Pew Internet study found that 17 percent of cell phone owners do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than a computer. Among African-Americans, that figure jumped to 51 percent.

  • In an effort to get readers to interact with the ads on its site, Talking Points Memo has implemented “conversation ads” in which users can send an email to the advertiser and receive a direct response.

  • Twitter is having some early success with its mobile ads, reports the Wall Street Journal:

    On most days, Twitter is now generating the majority of its revenue from ads shown to its users on mobile gadgets, rather than from ads on, company executives said. One key reason: People who see a Twitter ad on their phones are more likely to click or interact with it in some way, which is how Twitter gets paid for advertisements.

  • AOL’s new premium ad units for phones and tablets “can be customized with more than 20 different content elements,” and are “designed to bring TV-like visual and emotional impact to online advertising.”

  • More magazines are charging for hotlinks in tablet edition ads.

  • Travora Media will launch a mobile ad network with a monthly inventory of over 350 million pageviews across apps and sites such as Flight View, My Weather, Guide Pal and Let’s Go.

  • Hearst Magazines has launched a private ad exchange in the hopes of marketing its ad space by audience segment.

  • Weekday circulation at Gannett papers declined by 7 percent after implementing paywalls, but made up the revenue loss in the form of increased subscription rates.

  • 7 social media strategies for small business owners.

  • “Print is becoming a specialty. A novelty. A vanity. It’s things that end in -ty mostly. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, given planetary resources, given inefficiencies, to force the maintenance of a physical distribution model for most book reading.” – Baratunde Thurston on the future of print.

  • And finally, former GOOD editor Ann Friedman on horizontal loyalty:

    Prioritize your relationships with people who are at a similar stage in their career. Yeah, it’s helpful to befriend accomplished older journalists, but it’s really the relationships with people on your level that will sustain you. Include all types of media people in your network, not just writers. Send your ideas and drafts to these people. Retweet each other. Connect each other. Collaborate on a short-lived but hilarious Tumblr, or apply for a reporting grant together, or put together a panel. Make awesome stuff now. Don’t wait your turn.

    Freidman’s next project, Tomorrow, a single issue magazine to be produced in collaboration with her former GOOD colleagues, blasted through its fundraising goal of $15,000 in just five hours.