The Vancouver-based “citizen journalism” site, NowPublic, has attracted US$10.6m from a range of venture capital firms. According to co-founder and CEO Leonard Brody, large media companies were interested in buying up NowPublic, but the company decided to stay independent.
The influx of cash can be seen as a vote of confidence in the site, coming after the demise of similar sites such as Backfence and Bayosphere. By comparison, NowPublic has 119,000 contributors in 140 countries, funding and a high-profile deal with the Associated Press.
NowPublic sees itself as a “bridge between traditional and new media with its unique methods of crowd-sourcing news events” and is aiming to be “the largest news network in the world with more people on the ground in the right places and at the right times”.
So what is NowPublic doing right? Its success raises doubts over the idea of hyperlocal sites, says Brody:
I’m not a believer in local anymore. I used to think that hyperlocal was what mattered to people, but for 35 and under especially, the concept of local is very different. Like Facebook publishing the news feed… it’s changed from hyperlocal to hyperpersonal.
This is an challenging concept for journalism. After all, newspapers by definition are generic news products, designed to appeal to a wide audience. Or they tend to be local or regional newspapers, with a community defined by geography. By contrast, the trend, both in TV and online, has been towards a fragmentation of the audience into smaller and smaller niches. And the internet undermines the idea of geography.
Is the future of news the hyperpersonal?