Rolling the Dice

Paul Farhi, American Journalism Review, Jul 06, 2007
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Backfence - an experiment in online local journalism that attracted $3 million in seed money and employed as many as 25 people - is closing down. It couldn't get the readership, and more importantly, it couldn't get the advertising dollars. What does this say about the future of grassroots local journalism - and more broadly, about user-driven initiatives in general. Well, first, if you're in them to make money, you're probably in them for the wrong reasons. There are, as we see in this article, various successful local journalism projects - but none of which would ever hope to recoup a $3 million investment. And second, in order to stay small, you need to get big - to create a chain (or a network?) of similar sites, to attract national news and national advertising. Because that's where the money is. Good article.
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