Look out, local bloggers, the Gray Lady is moving in on your turf. Starting next week, The New York Times will be rolling out a neighborhood blog initiative starting mid-day on Monday. Our home soil of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill will be one of the two pilot sites (the other site will cover Millburn, Maplewood and South Orange in New Jersey). According to an email that was forwarded to us, the subject matter will include “cultural events, bar and restaurant openings, real estate, arts, fashion, health, social concerns and anything else that goes on in the ‘SoHo of Brooklyn.’”
Still according to the blog, the local blog network will be filled with content from the paper’s editors (one for each site) but also rely partially on citizen journalism i.e. unpaid contributions from locals readers who will be able to post everything from short video clips to wedding announcements. Apparently, the network will also feature a map-based real-estate listings section will tie back to the NY Times’ main real-estate site.
Update: Jim Schachter, editor for digital initiatives at The New York Times, confirms the news in comments:
We expect to sell ads to local merchants using our telesales and self-serve ad solution. Our two pilot sites are staffed with full-time NYTimes reporters. That’s not cheap. Obviously, it’s also not a sustainable model. We’re trying to figure out what would be. Can we create a combination of journalism, technology and advertising that people who don’t work for us can adopt? How much or how little oversight by us would be needed to keep the quality high? Would people pay to be associated with us? Would there be enough revenue that some split between us and a non-NYT blogger would work? I’d love to know what readers here think.
The New York Times and blogging, it’s not a new relationship. The institution operates a good number of blogs on its own, it acquired and started using BlogRunner back in November 2007, it co-invested in blogging platform WordPress and Federated Media Publishing, and it’s doing all kinds of good stuff with APIs nowadays.
That said, its Internet advertising revenues are dropping while its visitor numbers are also in decline. The local blog initiative could be a way to counter both trends, although Sarah Lacy could have a thing or two to say about the former, based on her most recent BusinessWeek column on the expected slow-down of the local advertising market.
(Hat tip to Jonathan Butler)