Well, you knew that, right? Despite more than a decade of effort, there's no solid evidence yet of anybody building local online news sites that achieve real traction in local markets. That particularly true -- as Business Week's Jon Fine reports here -- when somebody is trying to build the service from scratch.
The failure so far can't be attributed to underfunded or untalented players. Microsoft and AOL (dueing its heyday) both tried; more recently, the startup backfence.com (brainchild of washingtonpost.com veterans with millions in VC money) is the latest to splutter. That's mainly the subject of Fine's column.
There's good news for us in this, both explicitly in the column and intuitively in the experience. Local sites that are extensions of real news organizations have big advantages. Here's a quick quote from the Fine column:
The nation's largest newspaper chain, Gannett, is now enabling and ramping up local participation on its sites. It's easier for a local daily to promote these efforts than a new face with a new name. Backfence's executives thought they saw a sweet spot but ended up flanked by the solo entrepreneurs on one side and the Gannetts on the other. They found that the middle of the road is often nowhere at all.