Small digital news sites booming

FT_Small_Sites“Although Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Ezra Klein’s new generate considerable attention as representatives of the digital media future, they are in fact, not typical representatives of the native digital news landscape,” according to Pew Research. “A new Pew Research Center State of the News Media analysis finds that the growing digital news world is largely comprised of hundreds of smaller sites, often local in scope, that are working to fill gaps left by legacy reporting cuts.

“While there is variation within this universe of digital native news outlets, our  analysis of 438 of them has found that many fit a different composite: The typical outlet is between four and six years old; editorially, it is focused on coverage of local or even neighborhood-level news; it is just as likely to operate as a nonprofit organization as for-profit model; and it has a lean full-time editorial staff of three or fewer people.

“In total, these small digital operations have created about 2,000 of the roughly 5,000 full-time editorial jobs we identified in the digital news world, and they represent a growing and increasingly important part of a shifting media ecosystem.

“Most News is Local. A slight majority (53% or 231) of the smaller digital natives in the sample identify themselves as having a general or local focus, with a local community sometimes defined as narrowly as a single neighborhood.  That close-to-home focus is not surprising, given the small staffs at these outlets. But the next biggest group of sites (45, or 10%) identify themselves as investigative outlets. Another 6% (28) focus primarily on the state or state government while about 6% (25) identify their focus as politics and public affairs. Few of these sites tend to focus in on events abroad (2%), but one of them, the Seattle Globalist, identifies itself as a ‘hyperglobal’ news site.”

The rest of the research is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

4 thoughts on “Small digital news sites booming”

  1. The foothill topography has a way of dividing up the county in a number of effectively isolated neighborhoods, making them perfect subjects for these local, very local, digital newsletters.

    In my neighborhood of Lake Vera/Rock Creek, there is really only one way in and one way out, convenient if you are posting yard sale signs, not so much when wild fire strikes. But that road tree that begins at the head of N. Bloomfield branches out in 54 tributaries.

    But is precisely that isolation that seems to engender a certain degree of neighborhood camaraderie.

    A digital newsletter is MUCH less work than the old neighborhood association hardcopy; that newsletter was expensive in time and money, and never very timely or interactive. Without the costs of printing and mailing there is no longer a need for membership dues. And as Janis Joplin sang: “nothing honey if it ain’t free,” boosting membership considerably.

    An email newsletter has the usual editor, but all subscribers become reporters. Publishing their reports verbatim brings a lot of people to the table. It’s page 4 of The Union without the ads.

    We send out about 1 or 2 items a week. Simple things:

    * Joe Blow sighted cleaning up the roadside trash on Rock Creek Rd., (with a picture–that’s important.)
    * The menu for this week’s veggie U-Pick at the Food Love Farm is….,
    * Bear break in on Peach Pit Lane, killing the children, chasing the father into the attic before the mother could subdue the bear and call 911.

    Just the little, everyday things that make up life in a rural neighborhood.

    FONA will become increasingly meaningful as more and more neighborhoods begin to cultivate the “digital landscape.”

    1. Our “Banner Mountain Homeowners Association” e mail alert goes out to around 250 homes on Banner. We poll our members and ask them what ranks as most important to them, and their concerns of living here. As Jim says, it turns out that we have 250 reporters, and their interests are exactly the same. Bear alerts (please don’t keep your trash in the garage with the door up—please, please, please) , break ins, neighborhood watch, winter house checks for the older people on your street (with power outages during the winter we have a phone tree), water wells, propane price tracking (very surprising what we found). BMHA has no CC&Rs. We just have come together, for better communication about shared concerns, on our little part of the foothills, and it’s worked!

      1. Yes, we enjoy it. Our magazine advertises in the BriarPatch newsletter, in digital and print. The “verticals” (specific and targeted topics, not general) are often the way to go!

  2. Jim,
    This is a great local example. Banner Mountain also does a good job. The internet is changing how we communicate and reshaping our local news!

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