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New media models and segmentation

May 10, 2011

Following up on Wednesday’s lecture and last week’s Poynter article, i wanted to post some info and links on new media models and their audiences. This is the first of two posts, i’ll do the other next week.

In terms of new media models, this post focuses on content production models, which to me means sites that create original content. Next week, i’ll look at content delivery, which i’d define as how the content is, well, delivered – via an aggregator, a fancily designed RSS feed, an application, etc. Others might look at things differently, but this is how i view a lot of these new entities.

Rafat Ali talked a lot about scale in the Poynter article, and historically most media has aimed at a large scale, or broad audience. Some of the early online only publications aimed – and still aim – at a relatively broad market. Examples: Salon, Slate and, more recently, Huffington Post. These folks are making their money from ads, sometimes subscriptions and, in my opinion for the Huffington Post, using mostly free content.

Then there’s Gawker, which achieves scale to a certain extent through a network of blogs including the sports blog Deadspin, Jezebel for young women, and Kotaku for gamers. Some of the sites in this network originally were independent. Kotaku, for instance, was started by a Rocky Mountain News cops reporter who was really into gaming. He eventually became an expert on the subject and left newspapers to write full time about games. And Gawker bought his blog and still pays him and others who write for the site.

But as Ali pointed out, it’s difficult to achieve scale – or attract a broad enough audience – with most Web content. Note that he made money through advertising, specialty services, conferences and that he eventually sold his sites to The Guardian, a London newspaper with a great Web presence, a well-established reputation and a solid existing audience for its print product.

The hyperlocal is focused on a much smaller slice/segment – as it says, a specific locality. Oakland Local is one example, West Seattle Blog, operated by a married couple, is another, and Voice of San Diego is yet another. The first and third are nonprofits, i’d say the Seattle example is low-profit – they’re able to pay themselves with the advertising.

Aol.com is getting into the hyperlocal market through its Patch sites, like this one in Montclair, N.J. They’re certainly hiring content producers at a fast rate, but this is also as much about content delivery in terms of a cookie-cutter format and targeting high-income neighborhoods.

Then there are a range of niche blogs aimed at small markets spread across geographic boundaries – some of them are journalistic, some not so much.

One of my faves is Wonkette, a political gossip/snark blog started by Ana Marie Cox. She sold the blog to Gawker at one point, wrote a novel based on one of the most sordid posts there and has become a celebrity blogger/writer, doing work for Time Magazine and others. Gawker eventually ditched Wonkette, selling it back to the people writing for it. It’s pretty popular.

DailyKos is another popular political blog populated by progressives/liberals. it’s really a community site – most anyone can post – but founder Markos Alberto Moulitsas Zuniga. He’s become a celebrity via his blog, which sells advertising. He’s started other blog networks (on baseball, for instance) and has written books based on the popularity of DailyKos.

Mommy blogs serve a popular niche, both because there’s clearly a yearning for community (keep in mind, this is one of the basic purposes of journalism, building community) among young mothers. And there’s a desire among companies supplying products to reach this demographic.

The Dooce (note the copyright on the name!) is one of the earliest and most popular of these blogs, which really reads like a personal diary in many ways. But there’s plenty of traffic, thus plenty of advertising, and the writer got book deals out of it. Another example: The Bloggess. i only follow her on twitter, ’cause 140 words of hilarity is all that’s needed.

Of course, the celebrity niche is another popular one. Take a look at Perez Hilton, some kid from Miami who became his own brand. TMZ.com is a somewhat different deal, run by a former cops reporter and lawyer to get the legal scoop on celebs in L.A.’s “thirty-mile zone.”

i could go on and on with examples of successful journalism sites (TalkingPointsMemo, anyone?) and blogs that differentiate themselves because the person running them is highly skilled at what they do, identified a specialty they’re enthusiastic about and has developed a devoted audience. There are many, many, many more who tried and failed.

(originally published 9/30/10)

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