ILM:09: The Future of Local Media and Closing Thoughts

The closing panel at the ILM:09 conference was a dialog between Peter Krasilovsky, program director of Marketplaces, and two seasoned luminaries from the world of journalism:

Geneva Overholser, director, School of Journalism, USC Annenberg School of Communication. She is also involved with the not-for-profit independent platform for “community funded reporting,” www.spot.us (supported in part by the Knight Foundation).

Chris Jennewein, president, US Local News Network, a ‘hyperlocal’ publisher in Southern California. So far, they’re publishing SDNN.com (San Diego News Network), and will soon be entering two other markets in Southern California.

Both Overholser and Jennewein have long careers in print journalism, but are equally focused on “next gen” journalism and digital media.

Some of Jennewein’s key points:

–There’s still a need for editors in the content-creation loop (automated news capture/publishing systems just don’t cut it).

–High-quality local content commands attractive CPMs from blue chip advertisers. He cited CPMs in the $10 range for his online media properties — as compared with, say, a $0.50 CPM that is achieved via mass-market ad networks.

–Hyperlocal, online papers can “coexist happily” alongside local newspapers as well as online local media properties.

–There’s now a new generation of journalists who are also true entrepreneurs.

Some of Overholser’s comments:

–She is perhaps more bullish on the potential for automated systems (“algorithms”) to generate a base layer of local content.

–“Advertising-like” formats, such as sponsorships will probably be attractive formats for monetization. Overholser stressed, however, the need to be transparent with these new ad formats — so that it’s clear what is ad-supported.

–She’s confident that “we’ll get there” – i.e., to a commercially viable hyperlocal model.

–There’s a cacophony of content types in the new journalism world. For example, she cited the case of day laborers in South Central Los Angeles who are now using video phones to document their workday projects. They then can use this documentation as proof of performance when dealing with unscrupulous employers who attempt to reneg on payment agreements.

Krasilovsky asked about the hierarchy of content creation — asking the panelists if content creation may now be a pyramid, with user-generated content in the bottom layer, “pro amateur” content in the middle (paid articles), and professional journalists at the top.

Jennewein and Overholser framed the hierarchy more in terms of a spectrum or continuum, with a variety of participants, at different levels of compensation, along the spectrum.

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