Many high profile, hyper-local news websites have failed due to lackluster sales & revenue. This is true for both independent as well as corporate efforts. After spending investor cash like a drunken sailor, some exiting founders are semi-admitting that they might have survived if they used powerful, yet in-expensive software like WordPress as their content management system (CMS).

Just in case you forgot, hyper-local road kill includes NBC’s promising ‘EveryBlock’, which fumbled a sweet $1.1 million grant from the Knight Foundation. AOL’s Patch.com still keeps the axe sharpened at the ready as they lay off hundreds and keeps putting band-aids on their clunky CMS. So far, AOL has spent $300 million to develop Patch.

Recently, the hyper-local indie; Sacramento Press, was sadly sold off. After a valiant 5 year burn of investor cash, owner & founder Ben Ilfeld decided enough was enough.

Patch, EveryBlock, Backfence, NYT’s ‘The Local’, SacPress.com and many others all suffered from the same disease: “good idea with smart but wrong people in charge with old school business model’. 

Ilfeld and other hyper-local pioneers like Jeff Jarvis, Mark Potts and Warren Webster made the fatal mistake of focusing on the wrong metrics. Many local publishers still make that mistake today. No matter how fruitless the falling CPM models have been, salaried media execs still preach the financially irresponsible gospel of page-views, time spent on site, unique users, social media, full time staff and the squishy metric of “engagement”.

With most local media companies still using salaried executives to make critical digital decisions, it’s no wonder that Broadcast & Newspaper operations are still scrambling with online business models. God forbid they place profit-focused exec at the digital helm. Someone with substantial financial skin in the game…then we”ll see some action towards placing equal or more effort on serving those who financially support the content creation efforts: the local advertiser.

According to a story in The Sacramento Bee, Ilfeld said he thinks the only way for a site like Sacramento Press to be sustainable is for an owner to work 100 hours or more every week doing everything from writing stories to selling ads.

“It would take a local independent person who uses a fairly inexpensive technology – like WordPress – and has the business chops, or journalism chops, to run this as an entrepreneur,” Ilfeld said. “It is these kinds of operations that I think will survive and thrive.”

WordPress CMS being adopted by CBS TV, Radio and other local media.

Contrary to what many hear at expensive Newspaper, TV, and Radio conferences, WordPress is quietly being adopted by CBS and other corporate media titans. Ease of use, SEO, ability to scale and dramatically lower costs are just some of the reasons why a growing number of hyper local media companies are dumping their current digital CMS vendors and migrating to WordPress.

 

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