These are exciting, chaotic times for online news. Many startup news outlets come and go, but others are moving forward, learning and growing.
I want to identify leaders in the field — promising sites we can learn from and help. So I’ve created this list (my criteria) and attempted to figure out broad categories to help us see the new media landscape more clearly.
Missouri PhD student Adam Maksl, Missouri journalism grad Catherine Pearson and I are updating the list as we learn of new sites. In March, we will survey site operators in the top four categories below: New traditional, community, micro local and niche. We’ll ask their successes and challenges. We hope to share our findings in April.
Here are the categories. Follow the links to the site lists.
1. NEW TRADITIONALS – These sites are dominated by original content produced by professional journalists. While the newsroom staff may be smaller than in a traditional newspaper newsroom, these sites tend to have more journalists on staff than community or micro local sites. Many are embracing digital connectivity with their users, but traditional journalism is their bread and butter. Most of these sites are powered with grant funding and are searching for a viable revenue model, perhaps one that mixes grants, donations, sponsorships, syndication and advertising. Among others, the Knight Foundation is putting significant money to start organizations of this type.
2. COMMUNITY – These sites often rely on professional journalists but they tend to be bootstrappers who also focus on community building — actively seeking user feedback and content, writing in a conversational tone, and fostering civic engagement with practices such as voting, calls to action, and partnerships with local organizations and activists.
3. MICRO LOCAL – Sometimes called “hyper local,” these sites provide highly granular news of a defined neighborhood or town. They may have a tiny staff — one or two people plus interns or citizen contributors — usually supported by highly local advertising.
4. NICHE – These sites focus tightly on specific topics — restaurants and entertainment, health and medical news, environmental or political coverage, consumer and shopping information. Revenue may come from advertising, subscriptions or syndicating content.
We are studying the four categories above. But they do not represent the entire the universe of local news online. Here are additional categories in which we are listing sites as we find them:
5. MINI SITES – These sites typically are run by one or two people. They tend to be idiosyncratic in the selection of stories they cover and not highly aggressive in finding revenue.
6. LOCAL NEWS SYSTEMS – These are highly local, low cost sites created with a regional or national template, often by a corporation.
7. AGGREGATORS – These sites curate links and headlines from other sources. While curation provides a valuable service, our study is focused on sites that originate news.