The Knight Digital Media Center ran a series of articles last week on local independent online news. Minnesota’s own MinnPost got a lot of air time. MinnPost received $225,000 from the Blandin Foundation. In fact one aspect of the series was looking at funding models and the role of foundations in supporting online new sources.
I found the series to be very interesting. So many themes were repeated from the TC Media Alliance conference I went to last month. In short – traditional local media is going away. We’ve seen it with local papers downsizing and closing. We’ve seen it with consolidation of TV and radio stations.
I think that there are still strong local media outlets – KAXE in Grand Rapids for one. But I think they are the exceptions not the rule. Online media has been able to pick up some slack. If you are looking for news based on an interest – be it a political slant or obscure scientific topic, you’re in luck. But locally focused resources are a little tougher. Knight points out that often starting up a locally focused site isn’t the hard part – it’s not *that* expensive – but maintaining it is another question.
Maintaining a news site is an everyday job – and the advertising dollars aren’t really there yet. Selling subscriptions hasn’t been super successful. (One exception it seems to me is the Irish Times – but their readership is all over the world in a different way than the Minneapolis Star Tribune or even the London Times would be. And many of the Irish Times readers were able to cancel their expensive overseas paper subscription to go online.) For most resources the business model isn’t there yet.
As Knight points out financial model may not be there but if we want to share news we need those public outreach tools. The newspaper was/is our third estate. If we lose it (online and off) we lose an important check and balance. I think we lose an important way for rural communities especially to hear and be heard!