Tomorrow Gannett – my company – is expected to report some awful numbers for the first quarter.  Today, Sam Zell admitted buying Tribune when he did was a mistake.

    So naturally the number of people questioning whether hyperlocal journalism can survive without newspapers continues to grow.  The latest article I saw on the topic came from the New York Times, whose headline to me is more of a question.

    I want to split this issue into content and sales.  The article, which is worth reading, brings in some national hyperlocal sites and asks them where they get their content from.  Here in West Michigan, we have a possible solution pending – if the community gets totally behind it.  I am, of course, talking about the Neighborhood News Bureaus now in development at the Community Media Center here in Grand Rapids. 

    Now, I am not saying these NNB’s will replace the Grand Rapids Press.  What I am saying is, if these Bureaus are staffed by true community journalists, we as citizens would still have coverage of these neighborhoods.  Now, I see a better short-term future for most TV newsrooms.   They will play a big role in this but, I’ll be the first to admit, the Press has more reporters in Grand Rapids on an average day than I do.  TV covers the big stories and has more immediacy, the Press and newspapers have always had a breadth of coverage.

    The other issue, which affects almost all content-gathering organizations, is revenue.  I want to pull one quote from the Times article.  The quote is from a hyperlocal market analyst named Greg Sterling:

When you slice further and further down, you get smaller and smaller audiences… Advertisers want that kind of targeting, but they also want to reach more people, so there’s a paradox.

    So the organizations many people are looking to as newspapers are downsized also have money problems?  It is an issue for the local NNB’s.  While the Knight Foundation and Grand Rapids Community Foundation have provided 3 years worth of funding, sustainability is an issue the organizers are rightly addressing now.

    So let me ask you this:  if the content is the quality you expect, would you pay for it?  And, would you accept the content if surrounded by some ads?  Whether you comment here or on the project’s Facebook page, give Laurie and Roberta some feedback.  I’ll start: bring the ads on!

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