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Local NY Bloggers Speak: Why Write, When You Can Aggregate?

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Lockhart Steele with Jake Dobkin, Jonathan Butler, and Mark Josephson

“300 words, max…anything else, it’s an essay.” Those were the words of New York blogger Jake Dobkin at last night’s panel for The Future of Local Media.

The topic this month was “Local Journalism: What’s Cool In Your Hood?” But, the only thing the panelists could seem to agree upon was the more posts, the better — even when it means the death of any original journalism.

“We write 20 to 24 pieces of content a day,” said Jonathan Butler, founder of Brooklyn blog Brownstoner. “Generally all but three of those pieces are original reporting…Picture posts are great.”

Dobkin, who founded Gothamist in 2003, was definitely seeking to provoke his audience. When asked about the concept of pay walls for online publications, the young entrepreneur flippantly replied that this would be the best thing for his business. “Have them charge $20 for content! No one else will pay, but we will, and we will steal their stories,” he said. “That’s my two year plan.”

Behind the bluster, Dobkin has a point: Why pay for original content when blogs will aggregate it for their readers for free?


But for hyper-localized blogs, the issue of advertising dollars is a little bit different than for bigger, general interest blogs. The night’s third panelist Lockhart Steele mentioned that real estate developers and restaurants will happily pay for space on his blogs, Curbed and Eater, which offer 1 million unique page views a month. And if that monetary compensation is nothing compared to what these businesses were shelling out for a full-page spread in The New York Times Magazine, so much the better.

The overhead for blogs is (quite obviously) much lower than that of a print publication, so they seem to be managing with much less than their bloated print competitors. If they can make their way in the world by aggregating content from their rivals, they may have discovered a new business model. But what happens when those traditional media sources go out of business?

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