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Posts Tagged ‘Chad Blair’

From the day that Pierre Omidyar announced plans for a digital news organization in Honolulu, I have been intrigued by the project. Here was one of the most successful digital entrepreneurs, venturing into the local news field, where print-focused businesses were mostly failing dismally.

But it wasn’t just any digital entrepreneur. Omidyar was the founder of eBay. When I explained the direct sales aspect of my Complete Community Connection business model, I cited eBay as an example of the businesses that pioneered direct digital sales, while the newspaper business was stuck in its advertising model. I made the same point in discussing newspapers’ “original sin” of the Internet age and in discussing the future of freedom of the press. I thought Omidyar had as good a chance to figure out the business model for local news as anyone. I applied to be editor of his new project, then called Peer News. (I ended up at TBD and John Temple became Omidyar’s editor. But I continued watching closely, and when John made his first hires of “reporter hosts,” I  changed the titles for the community managers we were planning and called them community hosts instead.)

When Civil Beat (it changed names when it launched) debuted earlier this year, I was stunned and disappointed to see that it had a paywall. To get access to the full content, members have to pay $19.99 a month. I believe strongly (and have written perhaps too many times) that news organizations that charge for most of their online content are foolish. The prosperous future for digital local news, I believe, lies in assembling a large audience through content that is free or mostly free, and helping businesses connect with that audience in more meaningful ways than traditional advertising — with targeted ads and with opportunities to buy products, services, gift certificates and discounts directly from local businesses. I see the local news organization providing a digital marketplace for local businesses. Who better to develop that model, I thought, than the guy who owns PayPal? I was amazed to see Omidyar was using PayPal only to charge for content. (more…)

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