Monday, March 2, 2009

Some thoughts on hyperlocal media & the nature of PR

I had an interesting conversation on Twitter with Todd Pipitone, aka tjpip on Twitter, a marketing coordinator handling PR, social media, and marketing for a nonprofit. He's also a local newspaper reporter.

Responding to a previous blog post, that pointed out that the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer was a PR executive and that experience hasn't turned out well (since the paper is in bankruptcy), Todd wrote, "What if PR folks started online localized news site & then published paper?"

I thought that was an interesting question.

Especially since the PR industry is being impacted by the huge shock waves impacting print journalism.

So did Todd think that PR folks could start their own news sites as a a way to reach new clients? Or to communicate messages via a new channel? Either way, how would such a news site pay for itself?

Todd responded, "That is the kicker. I'm thinking it would have to be free, but ads? Also possible subscription? Are blogs filling the gap now?"

Blogs may be filling the gap -- although not in covering mundane but important things like town meetings.

And even if blogs do fill the gap, few blogs can cover everything a newspaper has covered, making it more difficult to find information in one place. And that makes it more difficult to reach people, especially as they are searching for exactly what they want while ignoring even scanning headlines of other news that may impact them -- but they won't know about it in a search-focused world.

One challenge will be that we're seeing the fragmentation of communication channels, and that increases noise. Todd suggests, and I agree with him, that the "time is ripe to provide it all in one spot again on hyperlocal level."

In fact, an opportunity may exist in tapping local pride, if marketed correctly, "similar to what happens on college campuses with their paper" and how the subscriptions are sold to alumni."

I agree. I think to succeed with hyperlocal will mean rethinking the value that readers want. But personalized news readers have not taken off as a true replacement. Clearly an answer has yet to come.

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