Local blogs–it’s about what’s on the plate.

Wow.. lots of reaction to the launch of our first local blog yesterday (www.bloggingohio.com)

Did a quick email exchange with PaidContent, folks on Technorati are linking to it, and the grandfather of the space–Sean Bonner–even posted a comment!

I really have no idea if this is gonna be a big business. I think it’s a very *cool* business, and I wish we had started doing it two years ago but we just didn’t have the bandwidth. Now we’ve got a little more bandwidth, and we’ve got the ability to plug into AMN (AOL Media Networks–AOL’s ad salesforce). Of course, advertising is the biggest challenge with these businesses. The Internet industry is littered with failed local businesses… it’s gonna be a hard nut to crack, but like every media business it’s about “what’s on the plate.”

WOTP is a concept my father told me when we were in the restaurant business. At the end of the day he said, “it’s about what’s on the plate.” The same is true in the media business… you put something good on the plate and people will come back.

Some more Q&A from an upcoming story:

> – What was the impetus for the news Ohio-centric blog? It seems like
> everyday some publisher is coming out with something dedicated to localizing
> things. Is there any connection here to the fact that Ohio was a big
> battleground state in the ’04 election?

Had nothing to do with the election… but that is a brilliant theory so I’m gonna start telling people that’s why we did it. 🙂

> – What other states or cities are planned for future local Weblogs blogs?
> When can we expect more of these local offerings?

We’re gonna see how this one goes and grow from there. Frankly, I’m not sure how many of these we’ll do. This is a speculative space and NO ONE has made it work yet. So, there is a lot of work to do. It’s gonna take years to make these profitable. Build local businesses is a long, slow process.

We needed to get into the game and start learning. We really don’t have a detailed plan beyond constant refinement of the product.

> – How were the Ohio bloggers chosen? Will they always be the same people or
> do you plan on adding new bloggers in the future?

We look for folks who are already blogging, and we are always adding new folks. When a blog gets established (think: Engadget, Luxist, or Gadling) we hire the inmates to run the asylum–that is, the readers!

> – Other publishers like Advance Internet already have local blogs — like
> the ones on ClevelandLive, for instance. How will Weblogs do it different?

I’ve never looked at their site honestly. I never look to competitors for strategy, we do our own thing and learn our own lessons.

> – Do you think your approach to advertisers will change when it comes to the
> Ohio and other local blogs? If so, how? What sorts of advertisers are you
> interested in attracting to this? Have any signed on yet?

We’ve got some advertisers lined up already, and I’m sure we’ll have more in the future. There are two types of advertisers in this space: local businesses and national businesses looking for local reach. So, you might have a local phone store advertise on one local blog while having Verizon advertise on 15 local blogs where they offer their service. I’m sure we’ll have a mix.

My guess is these blogs will lose money for at least a year before they hit profitability.

> – Classifieds are the big thing in the local ad world. Any future for such
> offerings in the Ohio or other local blogs?

Oh… that’s a good idea. We’ll get right on it. 🙂

best j

And follow up Q&A from the same writer:

> Thanks, Jason. Quick follow-ups. When you say, “This is a speculative space
> and NO ONE has made it work yet,” what do you mean? No one’s made the local
> blog space profitable?

I would say making it work would be some combination of:

a) hitting 50 cities
b) hitting 30M pages a month
c) hitting $3M a year in revenue

Hitting those three milestones would be a sign that this was a scalable business in my mind.

> If so, what have the barriers been and how will Weblogs make it profitable
> (i.e. attractive to advertisers)?

It is a scale issue. To make this work you need to hit critical mass on a city, state, and national level.

> Also, you didn’t really answer the “why local/why Ohio” question. Any chance
> you can explain what the reasoning behind this new path is?

Why not Ohio?

> Oh, and if you do integrate classifieds, I expect a consulting fee….haha.

Yeah… that’s such an original idea. We’ll pay you a fee right after we pay Craig Newmark his consulting fee. 🙂

best j

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