Marc Andreessen: The ‘problem with local news is most people don’t care’

Internet pioneer and investor Marc Andreessen spun out some thoughts about the news business on Twitter Wednesday. 2005 was the last year of an era that lasted since World War II, he said — one in which news was a monopoly business that profited from controlling distribution. But just because the Internet found a way around the old system doesn’t mean there’s no future for news: The industry “Will grow 10x-100x,” Andreessen predicted.

He doesn’t, however, see local news riding that wave. On Monday, Steve Waldman wrote about the existential crisis facing local news, as more investment money flows to outlets with a national outlook: “News is tough enough to make money on but at least if you’re national you can generate massive numbers of ad impressions and the possibility of Amazonian reach,” Waldman wrote. “Venture capital investors can only get 5x return or more for businesses that promise national or global scale.”

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  • happyindc

    There is enormous interest in local news. Most, however, get it from a neighborhood list serve.

    First post: (1) Does anyone know happened last night at XYZ at 3 a.m. Lots of police.

    (2) I saw police chasing someone through the alley, writes someone.

    (3) local police, who monitor neighborhood mailing list and engage residents, provide report on what happened. Man stabbed in restaurant, accused caught in alley.

    (4) What will happen to liquor license? writes someone

    (5) A few chime in about other problems at XYZ and say they hope the liquor license is reviewed.

    (6) Local councilperson writes about how problems at XYZ are now an issue of concern in his office.

    (7) In subsequent posts there will be details of license hearing and information about how to submit testimony.

    (8) Further post will tell what happened to XYZ. .

  • Doug Rainey

    The first Tweet is the one to pay attention to. He is right about people not caring. Why should they if the don’t have any connection to the community. The job of hyperlocal media is to help to build that community out of the sprawl that characterizes much of the area around cities and cities themselves.

  • SFMH57

    Wow. Marc A., you speak from the uber-rarified upper atmosphere you’ve come to inhabit which appears to be a bit too close to the Tom Perkins ‘hood. Your arrogant disregard for local news may be AOK in your sphere where you are well insulated from The World. But your pointed POV that if news doesn’t sell it’s the “creator’s problem” is definitely a high-tech attitude and I’m guessing this comes from viewing anything and everything as “product.” Well, Marc, news and the news people still do *need* and will always need about their communities and where they live is not and should never be mistaken for dross “product.” You, sir, are completely wrong about this.

  • BruceTheBlog

    Andreesen’s definitely on to something: 1) For most people, local news is “nice to know” rather than “need to know.” 2) A person’s time and emotional investment in local news is in large part a function of whether they work where they live or work outside their community. 3) The “what’s in it for me” stakes are much higher for local news, where parents of schoolchildren and student athletes want to mostly read school and sports news, while senior citizens with lots of time on their hands who show up at town board meetings obsess over local government news. Both of those audiences churn. Parents lose interest in local sports and school news once the kids are graduated from secondary education. Retirees and issue-driven readers are scarce non-commodities. Both of those audiences are not prone to pay for this kind of content. They’d sooner rely on word-of-mouth. 4) It’s far from irrelevant to the dubious viability of local news business models that Cablevision couldn’t sustain its MSG Varsity operation in the metro New York area, which focused on high school sports. At the end of the day, even the most focused verticals in local news with seemingly obvious advertiser opportunities (ie, youth sports) are transitory, niche markets that have not exactly proven themselves to be money magnets. 5) It’s typically journalists who will attest to the sustainability of local news operations (not business or sales people) by protesting that they have loyal audiences, that their content is high-quality, essential information, etc. etc. That’s all well and good, but the real question remains, “How profitable are you?” Where’s the proof that even the most “successful” local news sites are, in a strictly business sense, little more than avatars of profitless prosperity?