First blog on the block
: John Hiler of Microcontent News has started a Cityblog for New York and he sent me email asking my reaction. Well, blogs being a glass house, I’ll respond publicly with two words (well, actually one, since the Internet killed the space bar):
I’ve spent eight years working in local online and that whole time, people acted as if CitySearch were a killer ap. Well, killer is right. It killed capital.
There’s no question that entertainment listings are useful. Only problem is, you use them only when you use them. If you’re not going to a movie tonight, you don’t need the movie listings (or theater listings or poetry listings or whatever).
I faced this, too, when I created Entertainment Weekly. Unlike People, which could be fueled by the bodily fluids of the stars (i.e., I didn’t know she was shtupping him… I didn’t know they’re getting divorced already… I didn’t know she was sick/addicted/drying out…. Too bad he’s dead….), Entertainment Weekly was driven instead by the needs of each reader: If you don’t want to be entertained this week, you don’t need Entertainment Weekly. It’s the guide problem.
CitySearch faced that — its traffic was always tiny compared to my sites, which had news and sports and community galore, not just listings.
CitySearch also faced the economic reality that local entertainment advertising is hard to sell and harder to collect. Restaurants require way too much effort to sell (and they are notoriously bad at paying). Movie advertising is all national, not local. Theaters and such don’t spend. Books aren’t lucrative, book readings less so. And poetry? Hah! Let me say that again: Hah!
There isn’t much of a business here in this slice of a niche.
And there is lots of competiton — in newspapers, in alternative newspapers, in their online services, in movie sites, in venue sites, in restaurant sites, and so on. Google is a competitor.
I know local and I know entertainment and I know how tough they can be.
Ah, but that is where Hiler’s effort may be different because — like Nick Denton’s Gizmodo — costs are relatively low; the profit hurdle isn’t as high. And Hiler is doing a good job listening to his audience, who will be sure to be appreciative — though that audience will be smaller because this one market is only a corner of the still-small blog world.
So will it pay? That is always the question with blogs, isn’t it?
I do think there will be more and more local blogs that will add up to a whole: blogs about local issues, blogs about local sports, and so on.
I know of another exciting local blog project but won’t spill those beans yet. Stay tuned.
: David Galbraith adds his view as does JD Lasica and ditto Glenn Reynolds.