Our unconventional wisdom, which we shame-facedly admit was hoovered wholesale from Moses Znaimer, holds that, in an age of instant global interconnectedness, local information becomes critical.
City portals are all over the place. Everywhere we go, kids wanna rock, and they wanna do it under a city name.Toronto.com. myTO, myBC, myOttawa. (We’re not even going to bother giving you links. Like, who cares? myBC.com. Right.) And there’s the infamous Barcelona.com decision. (Screed.) (Factoid: “The U.S. company Mail.com owns dozens of city domain names, including Berlin.com, Madrid.com and Dublin.com, all used to provide vanity E-mail addresses,” reads quite a sharp report.)
Anyway, the first thing you think of with a city domain is “service information.” Like a map to a restaurant, or a movie listing. You’re not going there for content. It’s the content/service distinction that so few Web potentates understand (NUblog passim).
Knight Ridder, a very with-it, hap’nin’, moderne newspaper juggernaut, is shifting its high-name-recognition MercuryCenter.com site to BayArea.com. God only knows why.
By bringing content from several key partners together in a single portal package, Ryan said, KnightRidder.com improves its chances of landing the maximum number of site visitors, in turn generating greater ad revenue. “Our belief,” he said, “is that it is possible for a media company with strong local media partnerships in a market ... (to) create a new media business that has a very deep level of ownership within that market, and that has the capacity to deliver the eyeballs – to deliver the most sought-after consumer experience that will allow advertisers to reach the people they want to reach. That’s the role and mission of any good media company.”
Right. Because you’re sellers of soap, not journalists. Does Izzy Asper run this company or something?
“The problem I would see with it is you would water down a little bit your product, and identity,” [a critic] said. “When you had (just) the Mercury Center, that had built a reputation for what it was and a very strong reputation. And now this has the potential to water down its identity.”
[The critic] also questioned the basic concept behind the portal strategy. Newspaper portals, in some corners at least, have come under attack by media critics and analysts who view them as an awkward attempt by local media to parrot the model of massively popular portals like Yahoo that have made threatening inroads into local online markets. “I think you’re better off taking your quality original news and syndicating it as opposed to just getting people to come to your portal.... The portal concept has limited value for content players.”
You want to find a sushi restaurant no further than ten minutes’ drive from your office. You go to BayArea.com. You ignore the newspaper articles altogether.
You want to read about the corporation whose office you work in (anticipating a stunning début on FuckedCompany in a couple of weeks anyway). You get annoyed when the site tries to push sushi restaurants on you, or simply gets the in your bloody way while you’re trying to navigate, search, or read.
Who wins, except sellers of soap?
(These Knight Ridder kids oughta move to Canada. They’re very much in step with the thinking here.)
Posted on 2000-10-28