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If The New York Times fails, it won’t be for lack of effort. The cash-strapped Gray Lady launched an aggressive new content-driven effort today, aimed at more engaged readers and hopefully, new advertisers.
It’s called “The Local.” Before you say, "Right, newspapers are local," understand this is actually hyperlocal. It's an attempt by The Times to re-position itself from the center of the globe to the center of town.
Not every town mind you, The Local is going to start by creating websites for three Brooklyn neighborhoods and two New Jersey suburbs. It's part of a pilot project, a Times spokesman says, to serve and engage audiences in new ways. For the Brooklyn sites, The Times is working with Jeff Jarvis' City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
The school will collaborate with The Local in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, Brooklyn to teach residents about interactive media. CUNY journalism students will contribute to The Local and help area residents contribute. The students will also maintain a blog about the pilot project as a way to share their findings with educators and journalists.
The Times gets props for taking its business to the street. Don’t think for a minute that it doesn’t want this project to scale and scale quickly. If it works, all those kids who have abandoned the newspaper for social media will be reborn under the banner of The Local. Why post on Facebook when you can write for the NYT? “Yo dude. See my post in The Times today?”
It also opens The Times to local advertisers. The skateboard shop, pizza joint, and manicure boutique in Fort Greene that could never even think about advertising in the Times can consider The Local.
The paper has obviously thought through a lot of elements to its social media baptism. It will post "creative works by people in the communities, including short films, poetry, sermons, book chapters, short stories and multimedia artwork." The paper that has never once run color comics is now embracing "a virtual refrigerator of art submitted by neighborhood children."
The equation for newspapers used to be simple. Good content equals good readers. Good readers deliver good circulation. Good circulation attracts paying advertisers. I promise you that there are people at The New York Times that would give their eyeteeth for that formula to be that simple again. But it ain’t. The Local looks like a smart way to admit change is gonna come.