In a world where newspapers are shutting down, laying off staff and making as many cuts necessary to stay alive, two ambitious hyperlocal news sites, TBD.com  in Washington, DC and CivilBeat.com  in Hawaii are attempting to get seats at the already crowded table of media outlets. According to Rick Edmonds, author of Poyntner Online’s Biz Blog , they share similar strategies for breaking through online clutter:
- Online-Only: Both publications are only available electronically, alleviating the production and circulation costs traditionally factored into a newspaper launch.
- Mainstream editors: You will follow your hairdresser to a new salon or your favorite bartender to a different bar because they always get it right. CivilBeat and TBD are banking on that strategy. CivilBeat hired John Temple, former editor and publisher of the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, while TBD recruited Jim Brady, former editor of washingtonpost.com . TBD, which will operate a cable channel as well, also hired established DC-area broadcast reporters for an on-screen presence.
- Audience-driven: The two sites encourage reader feedback, inviting their audiences to play an active role in determining the direction the publications will take.
But, the sites are not without their differences:
- Crowdsourcing: TBD took to the virtual streets to gather ideas from their potential readers about content, social media and conversational methods, believing that their audience members would feel connected to the paper because they helped mold it.
- Off the beaten path: The site used the example of sports teams to illustrate this point: They will cover the Washington Nationals over the Washington Redskins because the Redskins readers, although more numerous, already have plenty of options to read about their beloved football team, while Nationals fans do not. By providing in-depth Nationals coverage, TBD will attempt to be a big fish in a small pond.
- A few relevant topics: Instead of soliciting ideas from their readers, CivilBeat decided early on that it would concentrate on a small number of topics in order to provide exhaustive coverage: Hawaii, Honolulu, education, land and money. They believe that these beats are most important to their audience.
- Paywall: The majority of the CivilBeat content is available to subscribers who pay the $19.99 a month for full access to the site.
- Online community: CivilBeat adopts an “online civic square” model, connecting readers to one another though the information they provide.
Which do you prefer: hyperlocal sites or mainstream media? It seems that there are as many ways to deliver the news as there are ways to consume it. Stay tuned for future posts on this very topic.