Why has the Gray Lady assigned full-time reporters to communities in Brooklyn and New Jersey? Even a Times editor admits the paper will never make money on microjournalism. But they could market software to bloggers.
The Local, a new Times blog, has two reporters and an editor covering two neighborhoods in Brooklyn and three New Jersey towns. Jim Schachter, the Times's editor for "digital initiatives," tells the Nieman Journalism Lab that the site will never make money on its own:
If every single person who lives in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Maplewood, Millburn, and South Orange came to these sites every day and made one impression, that would be about 120,000 impressions a day. It is barely enough to create a ripple in a pond and not enough to be profitable.... If you, for each site, have one full-time New York Times reporter and half of a editor, I don't think there is any way that this could ever pencil out as profitable.
But that's not the point, Schachter says: The Times is trialing the sites in order to build a software platform for other community sites, which local bloggers, possibly unaffiliated with the Times, will run. (It's worth noting that the New York Times Co. is an investor in Automattic, the San Francisco-based maker of WordPress, which Times blogs like The Local run on.)
That explains why the Times is targeting the exact same towns that Patch, a local-blogging startup backed by Google sales executive Tim Armstrong, chose for its debut. Impossibly vain Maplewood bloggers think that the interest reflects the unique qualities of their hometown. Nonsense. The Times wants to squeeze out a startup before it gets established on its home turf.
Both Patch and the Times are really aiming to be a platform for blogging — because, honestly, who wants to pay writers these days?
Of course, the hyperlocal hypercompetition will likely end up killing everyone, leading people to give up on making money from the "placeblogosphere," as Schachter neologizes it, for good. The only person who wins: Noisome media pundit Jeff Jarvis, who is simultaneously advising the Times and Patch.