Backfence website in trouble
Ultra local news sites could take 10 years to mature
I’m taken aback by this article in the Washington post. The famous local DIY news site, Backfence is in trouble. It’s not making enough from advertising and has spent US$3 million in around 18 months.
The article suggests that one problem seems to have been an inability to really engage the readers on local issues.
“They haven’t really been able to capture the genuine interest of local residents on passionate issues like crime,” said Peter Krasilovsky, a consultant who has been following Backfence’s development. Community news sites have to invest in the quality of the content before advertisers will take notice, he added.
This is a huge problem, and may not be solely content related. It’s always been assumed that users aren’t taking notice of big media because it’s becoming less relevant.
The view has been that local would work better because it’s more relevant, hence sites like Backfence. Build it and they will come. Maybe that’s not the case. Is the problem somewhere else? Could media consumers once disconnected, stay that way?
If the problem is content related, maybe solely user-generated local news isn’t the way forward after all. As a journalist myself, I would also feel much happier with the guiding hand of a few trusted editorial staff.
Maybe it’s all too early. One consultant’s opinion is that it will take 10 years for this model to become established commercially. 10 years is a long time online.
There’s an ongoing conversation about Backfence/Local News/Blogging here.