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Hyperlocal news in trouble

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Whatever the future of news is, Jack Shafer of Slate doesn’t think it will include Patch.

Shafer recently wrote a piece deriding AOL’s network of community news sites known as Patch, claiming the business model can’t work with the amount of ad revenue the sites currently bring in. He had a larger diagnosis of hyperlocal news sites: too expensive to produce and not enough return on investment. He was promptly lambasted in the comments section by many in the local news business who, among other things, argued that Patch’s corporate structure causes it to be less cost efficient than independent community news sites.

Shafer may have been onto something. A recent study by Matthew Hindman of George Washington University measured market reach among local news sites, and found that local news sites together get less than a half a percent of all page views in a given market. The study focused on online-only news sites (sites that weren’t tied to “legacy media” such as TV stations or newspapers), but had trouble building a data set because many local news sites didn’t even reach the threshold of page views required to be included. The implications of low page views, of course, mean limited advertising revenue and ultimately, perhaps, a failed business model.

The Nieman Lab issues a number of fair criticisms, most notably that it may not be correct to include non-content consuming activities, such as online banking, in measuring what share of page views goes to local news sites. While this adjustment might make local sites appear to fare slightly better in the online landscape, the overall result is nevertheless startling.

Shafer’s read of the hyperlocal world may have hit close to the mark. Based on the results of the study, it would be an understatement to say that outlets looking to monetize web-based local news are facing an uphill battle.

                                                                                                                                               --CHRISTINA PRIGNANO  

BEACON HILL

CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl examines Gov. Deval Patrick’s push to rein in the salaries of top officials at the state’s quasi-public authorities.

Private businesses are cashing in on access to public waters while boaters wait years for affordable mooring sites, CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan reports.

Pippin Ross, writing in CommonWealth, examines social impact bonds, an attempt to entice capitalists to invest in government social programs.

The union representing state probation officers has filed a federal lawsuit charging the department’s former commissioner, John O’Brien, and his staff with rigging promotions to favor politically-connected candidates.

The Swan Boats in the Public Garden and Sullivan’s at Castle Island get sweet deals from the city and the state, CommonWealth contributing reporter Colman Herman reports.

The state budget being reviewed by Gov. Deval Patrick continues to borrow money to pay the salaries of about 2,000 state transportation workers, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Boston Herald editorial page isn’t thrilled with the Legislature’s municipal health insurance reforms, but prefers the measures to a potential gubernatorial veto.

The State House News reports that the lawyer for Richard McDonough is calling for a new trial, based on claims that the judge’s failure to instruct jurors that lobbying is a legal profession tainted the verdict. Via MetroWest Daily News.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Two African-American groups are coming to Boston for major conventions this summer, a breakthrough for a city not known for being welcoming to people of color, CommonWealth reports.

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow reports that a group of residents at Devens, the former Army base, want to form the state’s 352nd town.

Boston’s fiscal watchdog and the city’s schools tussle over the use of unadvertised, no-bid contracts, CommonWealth reports.

A group seeking the recall of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua submits the 150 signatures needed to start the process, the Eagle-Tribune reports. In an editorial, the Eagle-Tribune calls Lantigua the “mute mayor” for his failure to explain his actions to the newspaper.

Ipswich puts the director of its Recreation Department on unpaid leave for failing to do background checks on her employees as required by law, the Salem News reports.

New camera technology mounted in police cars that scans passing license plates to see if a car is stolen or its license has been suspended or revoked is causing concerns among opponents who say it is ripe for privacy abuse.

Boston city councilor Charles Yancey rips Mayor Tom Menino on crime.

The town of Hancock will lower its property tax rate for the next fiscal year. The chairman of the Board of Selectmen cited conservative management and contracting out for services as the major cost savers.

The Springfield Republican praises the local, state and federal response to the June 1st tornado in an editorial.

Newton is poised to save over $1 million over three years from new contracts with police and municipal employee unions, the Newton Tab reports.

A contractor is alleging that Newton Mayor and Senate candidate Setti Warren unfairly awarded a town contract to a company that employs Warren’s former campaign co-manager.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

US Rep. James McGovern, who just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, visits WGBH’s Greater Boston to talk about the troop withdrawal and a host of other issues facing Congress and the local impact.

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney leads in New Hampshire poll, with Michele Bachmann second, NECN reports. Romney’s super PAC, which can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations, raises $12 million. But he’s facing blowback over his oft-repeated claim that Barack Obama inherited a bad economy and made it worse.

Newsweek punctures the infallibility of the Founding Fathers, pointing out that if Thomas Jefferson were alive today he wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance of winning the Republican nomination for president.

Rick Perry and George W. Bush get into a Texas shootout.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new survey by Associated Industries of Massachusetts shows many business owners lack confidence that the economy is recovering in the near term.

Verizon will start charging more for new customers who are big data download hogs on smartphones.

EDUCATION

Michael Jonas, in CommonWealth, views the great divide in American education through the lens of two documentary films.

The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, is backing calls for measures of student learning to be used in evaluating teachers, a stand its Massachusetts affiliate, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, embraced during the recent adoption of new teacher evaluation regulations here.

For an in-depth look at new UMass President Robert Caret and his ideas, check out Jack Sullivan’s “Conversation” interview with him in the new issue of CommonWealth.  Meanwhile, the Globe’s Brian McGrory meets with Caret in Maine and comes away thinking “this guy knows what he’s doing.”

HEALTH CARE

A study by Johns Hopkins University found a popular smoking cessation drug may dramatically increase the risk of heart attacks.

TRANSPORTATION

The South Coast desperately wants a rail link to Boston and politicians are eager to provide it, but CommonWealth’s Gabrielle Gurley asks whether the state can afford it.

The cash-strapped MBTA says it will again explore the idea of audio advertising on buses.


ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Paul Levy, in an opinion piece in CommonWealth, says giant infrastructure projects like the cleanup of Boston Harbor need a cheering section.

Christina Prignano of CommonWealth reports on a state program to push bulk sales of solar power at the residential level


CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Brockton woman says she is the victim of police brutality when they arrested her in her backyard while taking pictures in the aftermath of a shooting and chase that resulted in a car crashing on her property and bursting into flames over the weekend.

Boston police say they are ramping up patrols in violence-plagued neighborhoods after a bloody weekend claimed four homicide victims and 15 others with gunshot or stabbing wounds.

A judge rules a Lynn father must remain in jail as he awaits charges of assault and battery on a child. The judge calls the father a “mortal danger” to the child,” the Salem News reports.

A 4-year-old girl drowns in a Lynnfield pool while at a Fourth of July party, the Item reports.

Prosecutors proved Casey Anthony was a liar, but convinced a Florida jury of little else, the Worcester Telegram reports, via AP. Time says the jury did the right thing.

WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook sifts through the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case with reporters from The New York Times, Newsday, and Slate.

Jury selection begins today in the perjury trial for former Red Sox pitching great Roger Clemens, charged with lying to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs.

ETC.

Radio Boston talks with Victoria Reed, the curator of provenance at the Museum of Fine Arts, and hears the ownership history of Eglon van der Neer’s Portrait of a Man and a Woman in an Interior.

 

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