Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who's afraid of RVANews?

Local news departments of the mainstream media should mark the date it began: RVANews was unveiled for all with a hookup to the Internet to see on Oct. 31, 2007.

That this event should occur on Halloween is probably a coincidence, but don’t be surprised if/when RVANews starts to resemble a scary monster to the inky wretches at Media General and Landmark Communications, plus the broadcasters in the Richmond market.

RVANews is an experiment. Now we are going to see what will happen with the next stage of a trend that has taken off in Richmond -- community blogs. RVANews is an aggregator which will pull from a dozen or so local community blogs, most of which have been in operation for a few months, some less time than that. The first such blog in this area was John Murden's Church Hill People's News. The newest of them, River District News, just began today.

The list of community blogs (several of them launched by Murden and handed off to a willing publisher) that are currently participating is as follows:
RVANews will also offer original material from local freelance writers. This part of inventor/publisher Ross Catrow's venture may not be so easy to sustain at a professional level. Or, maybe it will. We'll see.

With the trends in the news biz going as they have been in recent years, there’s a hole in the market for local news coverage. Radio stations no longer have news teams. Television news is mostly national. Newspapers all over the country are shriveling, consequently, they are covering less homegrown news.

By creating what amounts to a network of independent publishers, RVANews will quickly develop a following among regular visitors to RVABlogs (also published by Catrow), an already well established site which aggregates over 200 local blogs of all types. The beauty of this way to get local news is that it is free and it is always there; one is not obligated to watch or listen at a certain time.

RVANews will also catch on fast with the media types who watch anything along these lines closely. Then whether it will attract a broad audience remains to be seen.

My prediction is that it will. Furthermore, I expect this development to quickly jump to other cities. Of course, whether anybody can sustain it and make any money will be the true test of whether such networks of cooperating but independently published community blogs will actually become players in the long run.

No prediction on that ... yet.

Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping an eye on RVANews, to watch it evolve into whatever it will become. No way I'm scared of news that comes from the bottom up, rather than the top down. Are you?

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