RIP Gannett's 'Moms Like Me'
At one time not too long ago, niche sites like Gannett's "Mom's Like Me" were being touted as one of the ways to pump needed life, and revenue, into traditional newsrooms' flagging online efforts.
Such sites, not branded to the paper or TV station, were a core part of the Newspaper Next initiative from the American Press Institute. Now, word that Moms Like Me is being shuttered shows the strong headwinds both inside the industry and outside that continue to make such initiatives difficult.
Steve Buttry, one of the people tasked by API with trying to spread the "N2" gospel (and one of those I respect for trying to effect real change), put it this way in a recent blog post:
As someone who spent most of two years trying spread the N2 message and issuing the N2 call for transformation, it pains me to look back five years later and say that we didn’t bring about any significant lasting change.
N2 was a worthy effort that delivered what the newspaper business needed. We presented tools and concepts for newspaper companies to focus more clearly on meeting the needs of their communities with multiple products doing valuable jobs for businesses and communities. We spurred development of some niche products, some of them still in operation. We guided some innovative projects. But the default settings of the newspaper industry were too strong for anyone to embrace the thorough organizational transformation that N2 championed.
It wasn't just the industry, of course. Social media, like Facebook, has moved in on at least part of the space these sites hoped to occupy.
It highlights, for me, trad news orgs' continuing struggle with the "community" part of the three-legged stool necessary for success online (content, utility and community) Many of these sites were put up more in an "if you build it, they will come" mode without significant input from the hosting newsrooms.
It's not all Facebook. It's also a lesson that it's tough to pick niches that can work on the scale that a lot of chains feel is needed to generate acceptable ROI. (And if you think about it, there's a bit of an oxymoron there - a "scalable niche"?)
High school sports appears to be viable, and for now at least Gannett is keeping its HighSchoolSports.net.
But is this best done on the national scale Gannett is trying? Or more on a local scale as the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News has done admirably with its Pigskin Review? We'll see ...