You’ve got to be kidding me, Part II

Yuppers, today was just ridiculous at work. Not only was there the depressing news about the paginators (check the post below) but now comes this Boston Daily article basically saying Boston.com is going to rip off the work my colleagues and I do.

According to reports, Boston.com plans to launch a line of town-specific sites that will cull content from sources like Boston Daily favorites theCambridge Chronicle and the Allston-Brighton TAB, which are owned by GateHouse Media. Critics were skeptical, with Dan Kennedy calling the move “hyperlocal journalism on the ultracheap,” and pointing out the potential legal conflicts the Globe could face from GateHouse’s papers (copyright infringement, perhaps?).

It’s a situation GateHouse Media New England President and Publisher Kirk Davis is monitoring very carefully.

OK, well great, glad my company is monitoring it carefully. Somehow, I don’t exactly feel that reassured. Boston.com is huge in Boston. Everyone reads it. But I know the people in my division are talented and can deal with this. Competition isn’t always bad, right?

Another blog, The Garden City, outlines more specifically what Boston.com plans on doing. 

Essentially the site will be an aggregate of news and information from online sources around the city, whether that’s from theNewton TAB, this site or any of the other blogs around town. The mock site they showed featured content from Newton Streets and Sidewalks.

Of course, the site only has a paragraph of content and a link, the goal of which, they say, is to drive traffic to our sites. Boston.com is also trying to feature a series of other elements mostly based on user-generated content, including: 

  1. Main site – Each site will have an editor, but that editor’s job will be to crawl all the local blogs and content sources (such as other newspapers) to present a link and a paragraph or so about the news. This main page will be updated about 2 times a day, with more updates if there is a breaking local story. 
  2. A wiki – Boston.com wants individuals to help them fill out a wiki with local information about groups, locations, etc. It will not be as heavily edited as Wikipedia, but they will look for user input on what should stay and what should go. 
  3. Calendar – Boston.com already has a pretty extensive calendar listing, one that now only appears online as it’s no longer being printed. But each hyper local site will pull data down locally, while also allowing individual groups to promote their own events. 
  4. Forums – This goes without much explanation.

The main purpose for all this, of course, is to sell advertising on a localized basis. Many have complained that Boston.com’s rates are just too high, but the hope here is to charge less money for local ads. Jeff Seideman pointed out that this puts Boston.com in direct competition with the TAB for local advertising revenue, something that could, ultimately, be a disservice to the city. If the TAB goes out of business (or even has to cut back its reporting further) we lose a key resource for information. The Boston.com folks insist that they will be driving traffic and ultimately helping other sites.

If they do just link to other sites, it could be helpful. But I’m not sure I believe the Boston.com folks. Are they simply trying to help our flagging newspaper industry by promoting other sites? They’re still a business. I can’t see them trying to help a rival out.

What do you think about this idea? Yay or nay?

1 Comment

Filed under From the blogosphere, GateHouse related, Hmm, Newspapers in general

One response to “You’ve got to be kidding me, Part II

  1. Clydicus

    Welcome to the world wide web. Linking is what it’s all about. You’re supposed to want high-profile websites linking to you.

    These arguments about whether this is good for the Boston newspaper community seem rather whiny. If you can’t compete with an automated web page that simply aggregates links with no editorial input and no original reporting, you’re in trouble.

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