Boston.com’s hyperlocal experiment

Chuck Tanowitz reports that the Boston Globe’s Boston.com affiliate is about to unveil a series of hyperlocal Web sites, including one for Newton.

The Globe doesn’t intend to provide any original content. Rather, each hyperlocal site will serve as a guide to existing material. In the case of Newton, that means, among other things, stories from GateHouse Media’s Newton Tab.

This strikes me as hyperlocal journalism on the ultracheap. I understand the purpose: to come up with a more affordable advertising platform for local businesses. And I understand that the Globe is hurting financially; Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix detailed the latest round of cuts on Thursday.

But think of the value that Boston.com could add by hiring a mobile journalist to cover three or four towns, uploading blog posts, photos and videos throughout the day.

Tanowitz notes that there may be an intellectual-property issue that needs to be resolved, too. Indeed. Yes, the Globe could drive traffic to the Tab by publishing a headline, a summary and a link. But what if that’s all some readers are looking for, so they never follow the link? GateHouse publishes its content online under a Creative Commons license that allows for noncommercial re-use. But that certainly wouldn’t cover the Globe.

Financially challenged news organizations are exploring new ways to survive. My own sense is the ones that will pay off are those that aren’t solely about making money, but that provide a real service for readers as well. At least based on Tanowitz’s account, this sounds rather more cynical than that. But we’ll see. (Via Universal Hub.)

4 thoughts on “Boston.com’s hyperlocal experiment

  1. Michael Pahre

    Without trying to be snarky, hasn’t the Boston Globe’s idea basically been done already?UniversalHub is a Greater Boston-wide aggregator of content from blogs, newspapers, photo upload sites, etc. It runs narrower feeds that focus on, for example, a single neighborhood of Boston or a neighboring town or city. Adam Gaffin is the primary editor of UH, although some other authors occasionally write posts.For example in Brighton: posts at UH about Brighton can be found here, and the RSS feed for those Brighton posts is found here.UH naturally produces an aggregated feed for each area of interest, serving up selected content that people would find of interest.Isn’t the Globe just paying someone to do what Gaffin is doing for free, while providing a different layout?Note: I was about to post an identical comment over at UH, but Gaffin beat me to it by writing, “Based on his description, it really sounds like what I do here (and which Wicked Local has been doing for awhile on its blogs, too).” He seems to agree the Globe is duplicating the UH model, and I say that it the Globe is merely pretending to do something innovative.

  2. Tony

    Why does this not surprise me? As an employee of GateHouse Media, I can tell you that, yeah, we notice when the Globe sections steal our stories … never mind our Web site work. Some of us have started blogging about each and every time the Globe reporters steal one of our stories, for kicks. We’ll note the Globe story and then show readers the link of our story … often, our story was published weeks or even months before the Globe published it. Now, they want to steal “wicked local” from us … Sigh.

  3. MeTheSheeple

    Tony: Have you caught when the Globe’s news updates section shows when they’re pilfering an idea? Quite often, they’ll actually link to someone else’s story there and say they’re pursuing it.The latest example now not only shows links to other stories, but credits the other news agencies directly. Interesting times, these.MTS, just for himself

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