Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hyperlocal meltdown

From page A6 | August 23, 2013 | 11 Comments

A year ago an assemblyman proposed a bill that would have allowed an Internet-only “news entity” to become adjudicated as a newspaper of general circulation and thus qualified to publish legal notices.

Fortunately that bill is dead. More than that the Internet scheme behind this whole bill is nearly deader than a doornail itself.

We read with interest Aug. 14 a business news story about the AOL CEO apologizing after it leaked out that he fired his Patch creative director during a conference call with 1,000 employees. Patch is a collection of 900 hyperlocal news Websites, 400 of which CEO Tim Armstrong is going to sell off. Good luck with that.

As pointed out by USA Today columnist Rem Reider, six other hyperlocal Websites have come and gone since 2005, including one by Gannett, publisher of USA Today. Others to bite the dust were efforts by the Washington Post and an effort backed by multi-billionare George Soros. Armstrong has spent millions on Patch and has done nothing but lose money. No wonder he got touchy when the creative director took a photo of the boss during the meeting.

On a conference call with 1,000 employees, quite a few who are going to be laid off, it’s a cinch that some of them recorded the meeting. And that’s how the instant firing and the following wild quote came to appear in the New York Times:

“If you think what is going on now is a joke, and you want to joke around about it, you should pick up your stuff and leave Patch today,” Armstrong told the employees. Gee, what a guy.

Another hyperlocal news scheme is going the way of the dodo bird.

The only sure way to get public notices out to the affected public is through a printed newspaper, one that a court has formally declared as a newspaper of “general circulation.” Recently a county planning official claimed that “nobody reads the legal ads.” Yeah, and nobody knows who the vice president is or the chairman of the Federal Reserve or the secretary general of the United Nations, let alone who the county planning division director is or the general manager of the El Dorado Irrigation District.

You can bet that Mountain Democrat readers could answer most if not all of those questions, and could tell you what foreclosure sales are in the legal ads of the Mountain Democrat and what developments are proposed and identified with a map in the legal ads. And when the delinquent tax list comes out in the legal ads you can bet people will be looking for their neighbors in the list just like they do our DUI list.

You can bet contractors will be bidding on the Cedar Ravine Sewer Project that Placerville advertised in the Aug. 14 legal ads. People will be bidding on the storage locker advertised in the Aug. 14 legal ads. Businesses keep up with the fictitious business name listings to make sure nobody is repeating a name already in use. Then there is the change of name listing in the Aug. 14 legal ad. Readers will be on the lookout for name changes that may be routine or may be a way to escape a past.

By the way, the answer to the above is Joe Biden, Ben Bernanke, Ban-ki Moon (was once an exchange student in El Dorado County), Roger Trout and Jim Abercrombie.

Yes, people read the legal ads. Those who don’t more than likely don’t even read the newspaper, which is why they are surprised when something happens that has already been in the news.

The Web is a wonderful thing, as we have mentioned before, but it is no substitute for local news, and last year’s scheme to put legal ads on the Web would have buried the ads for sure. There is no substitute for the printed word, so people can read the news at their leisure and peruse the legal ads.

Mountain Democrat


Discussion | 11 comments

  • Mark MoscowAugust 22, 2013 - 5:06 pm

    This newspapers is using their editorial space to plead for their own business self-interests. To me, they are losing credibility doing that.

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  • cookie65August 23, 2013 - 5:37 am

    There is a reason printed news is referred to as "dead wood" news. The highest traffic news sites on the internet have no printed edition. There is also a reason so many dead wood news organizations have been sold off recently for pennies on the dollar. Recently a story appeared right here in the MD talking about censorship in China that focused exclusively on the internet. Not everyone keeps pigeons so we don't have a cage needing floor lining. A printed paper does not allow the reader to participate in the news and expose the bias the way the internet does.

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  • robertdnollAugust 23, 2013 - 10:09 am

    how many commenters don't give a hoot about the subject matter in an article and use this site as a historme

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  • EvelynAugust 23, 2013 - 10:16 am

    Robert: What is an historme? I looked it up and still don't know.

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  • robertdnollAugust 23, 2013 - 10:29 am


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  • Mark MoscowAugust 23, 2013 - 10:42 am

    This story is hard to understand because it dances all over. The point seems to be (legal notices should be by Newspapers only). If that is the point, a great counter-point story is here: Newspapers Fear Legal Notices Going Online

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  • Bill E.August 24, 2013 - 5:07 am

    The "web" is not a substitution for news, but rather a different vehicle for content and news. The reasons being there are no deadlines, post when news happens, interaction between readers, and easy to share information. Look no further than the Rim Fire to see how Facebook posts out of Groveland shares information from a range of sources - multiple newspapers, command centers, government agencies and other Facebook users as feet on the street. The hyperlocal meltdown is the editor's issue, not the readers, and the driver is dynamic content. Let's see where Jeff Bezos takes the Washington Post over the next few years.

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  • cookie65August 24, 2013 - 5:53 am

    Bill E, you are absolutely correct. For years the news and media in general has been dominated by a select few who have practiced in telling people what the news is. The internet has broken that mold and given voice to countless millions who in many cases are far more qualified, interested and informed than all the talking heads who call themselves journalists.

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  • Fran DuchampAugust 24, 2013 - 8:07 am

    Digital Resources for Law and Public Policy (fun site--I spend hours there.)

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  • Bill E.August 25, 2013 - 7:33 am

    SO, where is the article about the fire in Georgetown? Pictures? Does anyone work on Saturdays? Love it when the hyperlocal strategy kicks into overdrive....

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  • cookie65August 25, 2013 - 8:58 am

    Bill, the article about the fire in Georgetown is probably in the same place as the letter the DA wrote to Briggs.

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