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The News Hour with Jim Lehrer followed The New York Times‘ lead today with a segment on “news alternatives” (audio download here). Featured on the program were Joel Kramer of MinnPost, John Brod from and Esther Thorson from The University of Missouri’s J-school.

News Hour correspondent Jeffrey Brown took the “journalism-first” approach, wondering how the local news hole could be filled. Kramer, a former editor of the Star Tribune, simply said that “it can’t. We’re more of a daily news magazine,” he said. He added that both the Twin Cities newspapers still do a great job under tremendous stress and he remains a fan.

Kramer also agreed with Missouri’s Thorson that hyperlocal sites can’t be self-supporting without assistance from foundations, etc., given that advertisers have so many places to put their marketing money (something I’d probably take issue with). Less than 50 percent of his budget is expected to come from advertising, he noted.

Brod, in the meantime, voiced confidence that advertising can turn a good profit, which is not surprising for someone who works for investor Tim Armstrong, the former Google head of sales who is now running AOL. The production cost of an online news services is just 4.5 percent to 4.7 percent of a newspaper, Brod estimated, adding that Patch is using a combination of “30 second” self-serve buys and tele-sales upsells to reach its goals.

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