About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« Sliding Toward Irrelevance | Main | Demographics of the Damned »

April 27, 2009


Paul Baron

Kudos to Iowa .. but reinvention and leveraging is, as you state, neither new nor rocket science these days. But it does take initiative. At Hometowntimes.com, our initiative is to not only provide and deliver the platform for hyper-local news, events, advertising, and community information .. but more significantly, make an impact on the professional career paths of the tens of thousands of quality journalists, writers, reporters, ad salespersonse being displaced by the print establishment.

What’s next for newspapers and journalists?

At the heart of the Hometowntimes.com mission is our desire to support the professional path of our city/community publishers, and to also better understand what journalists, reporters, advertising salespersons are thinking when their thoughts drift to "what's next for me?" Here at www.hometowntimes.com, we want to hear from people in or out of the news field, or soon to be out of school, or who want to be out of the established print/news outlets and are searching for a way to connect with those in their local communities - the people, the businesses, the events - the issues of local importance that appear to be less and less covered by the incumbent media outlets. And leverage available social and online technologies for the benefit of their communities. If we can help anyone in the industry, journalism school, or graduating class, or you just want to share your thoughts, I welcome your input.

At Hometowntimes.com, we chose the franchise business model as a path to financial success and to offer a home-based opportunity to support the growth of America’s smaller communities, cities, and counties. Those underserved by the available news and advertising sources. We leverage social networking and traditional and online solutions to present the greatest value to residents and advertisers. A hometowntimes.com franchisee is a stakeholder in the community, directly supports the growth of their local small business universe, and connects information, events, and topics of relevance in these neighborhoods, as it acts as the social network hub for communications within America's small towns, mid-sized cities, and suburban counties underserved by the print media.

About HomeTownTimes.com
HomeTownTimes.com is a national online news and community publications franchisor, currently operating more than 500 internet-based news sites across the United States. The mission of the Georgia-headquartered business is to bring local communities together via a convenient portal that provides free access to local news, information exchange, community forums and advertising. Each individual HomeTownTimes.com online news publication is a community hub for home town events, Internet forums, classified ads, business directories, photo galleries, sports, health news, coupons and feature stories about local events, people and businesses. Independent small businesses, large franchisors, and companies with a national footprint will all find their hyper-local targeted audience for their products or services through HomeTownTimes.com ad placements, videos, original content articles of interest, and news of local events associated with their business. Franchise opportunities are available in every state and county throughout the USA. For more information, visit www.hometowntimes.com or e-mail info@hometowntimes.com.

Neill Watson

Heavy going, Mark, but worth the read.

What are your thoughts on the same fate affecting monthly lifestyle mags such as car titles, my main market??

Mark Potts

Neill: Thanks for the note. Magazines in general are having a lot of the same troubles as newspapers, in terms of declining ad revenue. The closing this week of Portfolio is just the latest example of titles and staff being trimmed in that industry--which also has been much less savvy, for the most part, about using the Web.

I'm a car magazine fan, but I think it's going to be especially heavy going in that category, particularly in the U.S., given the problems the automakers are having. The reductions in ad pages in the car magazines are already striking, and this week the publisher of Motor Trend and Automobile filed for bankruptcy protection. I suspect we'll see some titles fold or be consolidated before long. I know you're in Britain, where things may be a bit different, but there's a similar glut of car mags there. I'd watch for an industry shakeout.

Paul Vetter

Thanks for this insightful and in-depth post. What do you think about the AP's recent spat with Google? I wrote a post about it recently (www.fahlgrenmortine.com)and am interested in what others are thinking. Interesting to note the recent LA Times report that young people are flocking to J-schools -- there must be a viable business model out there somewhere.

John Thornton

Uhhhhh....this isn't going to work.

Here's why.

Do a google search for "cedar rapids nail salon."

Go to the gazette web site and see if you can learn anything about a nail salon. You can't.

For small ticket stuff, paid search wins (and lead gen doesn't work because there's no practical way to get into the transaction stream). For big ticket transactions, lead gen works, but more specialized sites (auto, real estate jobs) will win, because there's more liquidity there. And there are already entire industries built up around lead gen verticals. NEWS AND JOURNALISM DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH A TRANSACTIONAL MODEL. They just don't

Local dailies are too late even if they could execute, and if they could execute they wouldn't be in this spot to begin with.

To accomplish everything this guy talks about, why wouldn't I just:

-buy cedarrapids.com
-do a rev sharing deal with mojopages (yes, an AV company) that instantly gives me thousands of listings and high goog page rank
-do similar deals with sites in auto, jobs, and real estate
-count my money and leave all those pesky reporters to find new careers?



I don't know if I think providing everything to everyone is going to be the way to go for most. It's far too difficult and expensive to do everything well. And if you don't do it well, there's a heavy price to pay.

I think people may go to places like news aggregate sites, but ultimately they go to a site that serves a niche audience when they want something more in depth. When I want cycling news I go to a site like velonews.com, and when I want design news I go somewhere like designobserver.com.

Trying to be everything to everyone is only going to work for a very few select sites.

Interesting, but most likely to short sighted is this: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/05/01/future.online.news.hyperlocal/index.html?iref=t2test_techtues&eref=rss_topstories

Account Deleted

This is indeed impressive and exciting, but it really makes me nervous to see a company aspiring to do everything well.

My reason for not betting on their success is as simple as that, unfortunately.

profit lance

Unfortunately, I don't think that re-inventing newspaper will do much.

With the growth of internet, people find what they need straight from their home and most of times they don't need even to pay.

To succeed, newspaper must do something that online information can't do... and this will not be as easy as one might think.

Christine Young

Kudos to Chuck Peters and the Gazette. Finally, in a world of whining weenies, a journalism executive with guts and imagination.

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