By Jack Fischer
The last few years have seen an explosion in so called hyperlocal news coverage. For most of history, news publishing had to be on a large scale to survive. However, as the cost of entry for news outlets has plummeted thanks to the internet, news organizations, such as The Patch, are able to target tiny geographic areas. This is a paradigmatic shift in terms of how information spreads through communities, for better or for worse.
Outlets covering Briarcliff are too numerous to count-Patch, News 12, The Journal News (also known as LoHud.com), The Briarcliff Daily Voice, The River Journal, Ossining-Briarcliff Gazette and of course the high school paper, The Briarcliff Bulletin.
While there is obvious value in local information being consolidated and easily available, the vicious competition for a limited audience can cause problems. “The difficulty is in the number of resources and in the speed at which information, accurate or otherwise, gets published,” said BHS Principal Mr. Kaishian. “Where once I might have had to deal with the occasional inquiry or visit from the Journal News or News 12, I am at times inundated by online papers, bloggers and social media sources as well as the traditional media and their more intense coverage of local events and issues. It makes it harder for me to protect student privacy and the reputation of our wonderful high school, as well as ensure that accurate information is being used to construct potential stories.” In this case, competition may actually hurt the consumer: “Unfortunately, I see a trend among these outlets to get stories out first with the hope attracting readers or hits rather than conducting sound journalism,” Mr. Kaishian added.
Still, things appear to be looking up for most of Briarcliff’s local news sources. “Our profitability is higher than its been in 14 years,” said Robert Bonvento, publisher of the River Journal, which is mailed to houses in Briarcliff. “Our audience has remained loyal even as online competitors enter the market,” said News 12 anchor Janine Rose. “News 12 is a well-established brand and has been providing local news in a 24-hour format for Westchester County for more than 17 years. No other news source provides the depth and scope of hyper-local content for the Westchester community.”
However, media companies can disappear as quickly as they came and soon there maybe one less local competitor. In May, Bloomberg reported that Patch is not performing nearly as well as its parent company AOL had hoped. A major problem is the lackluster response from local businesses to place ads on Patch, which was a critical part of its business model. According to Starboard Value, group of major AOL investors, “Patch lost $147 million while generating a mere $13 million in ad revenue-roughly $15,000 per site … executives hoped to sell 80% of their Patch ads to restaurants, spas, and other community businesses. Instead, local merchants bought a mere 18 percent. Approximately 70 percent of those who did … failed to renew their contracts.” Patch declined to comment for this story.