(cross-posted from my media blog)
Don Dodge has some thoughts about newspapers and local content — like restaurant reviews, movie reviews, etc. — that got their start with a post from Greg Linden of Findory (which Greg said recently is shutting down, or at least going into hibernation) on the same topic. Greg’s post in turn was based on a very perceptive post by Rich Skrenta, CEO of Topix (a local news aggregator), about how newspapers generally suck at making their content available to search engines where they can become part of the “long tail.”
All of this drew some skeptical fire from my friend Rob Hyndman, who said in his post that newspapers shouldn’t own local search. His reasoning (expressed both in his post and in an email discussion with me): newspapers may have local content, but that doesn’t mean they can necessarily compete with other, better sources of content that are faster and more flexible than newspapers are — even assuming that papers can solve their archive and searchability issues.
Needless to say, I think that newspapers have a slightly better chance than Rob does, but that’s not just because I work for one. I will agree that trying to convince local-content searchers to come to a newspaper site — which Rob also criticizes in his post — doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense. But that doesn’t mean newspapers can’t make use of their content by making it easier for search engines and other aggregation mechanisms to find.
Maybe newspapers can’t compete with other local sources (like Yelp, which Mindy McAdam likes), either because they don’t have compelling enough content or because they don’t know what they are doing technology-wise, or because they are just clueless and handicapped in a variety of ways. But they can certainly do a heck of a lot better than they are now. Pramit Singh has some good suggestions at MediaVidea