Just because it’s “hyper local,” doesn’t mean it will automatically work. Just ask Keith Vance, who recently announced he’s closing The Seattle Courant, his local online publication.
Fortunately, Vance offers some lessons learned:
The Courant failed because I didn’t have enough cash and I didn’t find someone who could handle the business side, such as finding customers, technologists and managing projects. The trick I had to pull off was to be able to fund the Courant while I not only built a newsroom, but also a technology firm to support it. I couldn’t do it all.
My advice to anyone who seeks to create something like The Seattle Courant is to make sure you have at least enough money to get you through the first year and someone who’s as committed as you are to the business. To generate revenue, focus your efforts on providing technology solutions to your customers and not just selling banner ads. You have to be able to do something that other people can’t, or don’t want to do. Going to city council meetings and covering press conferences counts as something people don’t want to do, but news doesn’t make money it costs money. One way to think of it is that instead of a print shop that supports a newsroom, we need to build a technology firm that supports a newsroom. It’s really not that different, it just requires a different skill set.
For Vance’s full explanation of why he’s closing the Courant, go here.