Kreisman: The growth of “McLocal” news sites

This article is a cross-post on Block by Block from Polly Kreisman, editor and publisher of, an independent community news/hyperlocal site outside New York City established in 2007. theLoopNY sees 35,000 visitors a month — 20,000 of which are unique visits — from its coverage area in Lower Westchester county, according to its advertising material. Polly’s post originates here.

theLoopNY is among 41 independent, online news sites in the Authentically Local network, a group of publishers that live, work, cover and do business in their towns, as opposed to corporate-owned hyperlocal operations setting up in certain territories across the country. Authentically Local’s motto is “Local doesn’t scale.” Block by Block wrote about this last month.

Authentically Local

Authentically Local

And another Wal-Mart site joins the ranks! This one, thedailymamaroneck, is another well-funded chain of sites, (the Patch sites are owned by AOL) and we welcome them. They are run by a Carll Tucker, a gentleman who has told us repeatedly that he has “watched us carefully,” and his wife, Jane Bryant Quinn. Competition is a good thing in journalism.

Yet with the rise of ‘McLocal’ chain on-line site networks that continue to aggressively expand, and that might look the same in Yonkers as they do in Yakima, a band of independent local news sites has banded together to clarify the value that we offer.

theLoop is an authentically local site with deep roots in the community and a commitment to advocacy on your behalf. We have been for almost 4 years. We are not here simply to add another geographic entity to our arsenal. Our reporters already have the top credentials in the business, and many of us continue to work on national platforms. Our advertising dollars stay in the community.

So far, the Authentically Local campaign, announced at the GeoWorld Summit, has attracted 41 sites representing communities across the US…including this one.

You will see our little ‘Authentically Local’ button on bottom of theLoop

Says Founder Debbie Galant of our “sister” site in Montclair, NJ,

“Certainly big corporations add a lot of convenience and consistency to our world. They also threaten to homogenize it. …Local doesn’t scale.”

“Local journalism doesn’t scale and it doesn’t need to scale. It needs to emerge from people deeply engaged in their local community, determined to make a difference and provide a vital service,” said Lance Knobel, a co-founder of in Berkeley, California.

“We’re in this with our advertisers,” said Timothy Rutt, the editor and publisher of Altadenablog in Southern California. “Because we’re local, we spend our advertisers’ dollars in the community. We don’t ship it out of town to a big corporation.”

A list of founding sites, which collectively reach about 800,000 readers a month, can be found on the website.

Have a look at the philosophy of Authentically Local:

The restaurant decorated with bright glass bottles, renowned for its French toast and its convivial atmosphere when the tables are set up for outside dining.

The dry cleaner who doesn’t need to be told that you like your shirts folded, not hung. Light starch.

The shop owner that runs down the street after you when you accidentally leave your credit card behind.

The hardware store with the sign that says, “Husbands cannot buy paint without a signed note from their wife.”

The local website that runs the picture of your missing dog – connecting you with the neighbor around the corner who found him.

Yes, you can eat at an Applebee’s or buy your paint from a Home Depot. You can buy your books on Amazon, or download them to a Kindle. You can use an iPhone app to find the closest movie. But there’s a difference between something that’s geographically convenient and something that’s authentically local.

And the difference is this: Local doesn’t scale. Local isn’t McDonald’s, even if the McDonald’s is right down the street. Local doesn’t send profits back to a home office somewhere else. Local is something that’s part of what makes where you are unique. As unique and flawed and loveable as your own kids. Something is authentically local if it’s the first thing you’d want an old friend, visiting from the other side of the world, to see. It’s authentically local if its disappearance could potentially break your heart.

Local is suddenly the newest, hippest, most lucrative frontier. The local advertising market alone is estimated to be $100 billion a year. Companies like AOL, Google, Apple and Groupon all want a piece of the action. Some of the devices they sell you are even collecting data about everywhere you go – all to help their local campaigns.

Certainly big corporations add a lot of convenience and consistency to our world. They also threaten to homogenize it. If you want home to feel different from everywhere else in the world – or if you want a world that’s interesting to explore, support what’s authentically local. Know the difference, and vive la difference!

To join the Block by Block community news publishers group, contact community manager Jessica Durkin at, or find her on Twitter @jessdrkn. #mybxb #hyperlocal.

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