The following GEEKNOTE originally appeared on the NewsPortRichey website. It is republished here for anyone who had problems picking it up yesterday.
GEEKNOTE: I would like to start off by commending Jon Tietz for creating a new local news site for New Port Richey and the rest of West Pasco. He has his work cut out for him.
First a little history: The advent of the Internet and the 24 hour cable news cycle have changed the way that Americans get their news. Residents of our area are no different.
For years, the dominant daily paper in our area, the St. Petersburg Times (now TampaBay Times), had daily Pasco sections. That decreased a few years ago to two days a week (Sunday and Wednesday) and will be changing to one day a week (Friday) starting in May. The Tampa Tribune coverage of the area was somewhat weaker, with their Suncoast News tabloid size paper being delivered twice a week to most homes in West Pasco.
The local TV stations, including Bay News 9, cover West Pasco, but only as part of their much wider focus.
The Times and the Tribune both operate news websites, but have struggled to figure out how to pay for them. The Times set up a “pay wall” that allows limited online viewing before requiring a subscription. The Trib has thus far resisted going down this path. The Suncoast News has been 100% advertising supported for as long as I can remember, so I would not
be surprised to see their site remain free to view.
Several years back, AOL embarked on a rather interesting experiment. They created “hyper local” news sites online and hired staff to produce content. Alex Tiegen was hired to create our local edition and he immediately set out to make the New Port Richey Patch edition THE place for timely local news.
While the Times and Trib would eventually report on news events, Alex’s Patch would regularly break stories first. It was not at all unusual to see a report on the previous night’s city council meeting before breakfast the next morning.
AOL never quite figured out how to make the local Patch editions self supporting and they lost millions of dollars in this experiment in local news. We looked at advertising on the New Port Richey Patch website, but the prime “above the fold” ad locations were reserved for national advertisers and any advertising came with relatively long term contracts. Apparently, we weren’t the only local business that couldn’t justify the expense. AOL pulled the plug last summer and fired over half of their Patch staff nationwide, including our own Alex Tiegen.
Since last summer, the New Port Richey Patch has become nothing more than set of links to news articles, primarily from Bay News 9. A number of local folks have created news aggregation pages, but so far, nobody has successfully created a real news site with significant original content.
Into this fray jumped Jon Tietz with the NewsPortRichey website. As I understand his plan, it is to gather up enough local reporters / contributors to allow this site to become something more than yet another news aggregation site. If you are interested in trying to make this work, contact Jon and offer to help out.
Part of my responsibility to Gulfcoast Networking is to provide original content for both our business and consumer focused websites. The best of my tech oriented GEEKNOTES will find a permanent home in the archives of those two sites.
As I suspect most of you know, I have some interests beyond computers and technology and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on those issues here.
FLORIDA GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE DISCLAIMER: To the extent that I may stray into discussions of items that might come before the New Port Richey city council, I ask that my colleagues on council refrain from commenting on my remarks here.
Will Jon succeed in creating a new hyper local news site? I think that remains to be seen, but he may well have a better chance of it than AOL, particularly if enough of you volunteer to help him out with news gathering and reporting. I look forward to finding out.
Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
Mayor, City of New Port Richey.
(The views posted here are Rob’s and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the City of New Port Richey.)