Commentary

Local Online Video News: Lower Budgets, Better Hair

GoLocal-news-

We have to hand it to the wide-eyed and fresh kids who are anchoring the GoLocalProv video daily that launched yesterday. They have better hair than almost every local TV newscaster we know. "Anchorman" was no joke. There is some kind of professional requirement for all on-air personalities at the local affiliates to sport helmet dos. That or the Bad Hairdressers' Union has a deadly lock on the business nationwide. At any rate, the new Providence, Rhode Island online video news show at GoLocalProv.com is fronted by a couple of recent college grads Greg Berman and Lauren Marchetti who know how to go easy on the blow dryer. Whether they and their parent company GoLocal24 can make a go of supporting local news organizations, including digital video casts on Web-level incomes is another story.

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The new project leads with a daily 4:00 pm live newscast that rounds up the local stories. While most of the content on the site is not video but instead straight text and images, GoLocal24 says that the effort is unlike typical local TV programming in that this is truly local. No national feeds, no syndicated and rehashed stories. In what seems like a kind of Patch, hyperlocal model, they have recruited 40 local reporters and videographers as well as what they call Mindsetters or local experts and authorities, opinion leaders, etc. to provide the content.   

The site actually has been running for a year already. There is considerable neighborhood content here, and it does include video spots in areas like local sports and occasional clips attached to news events. There are investigative pieces, such as a new article on Rhode Island's stepped up tax auditing. And the info gets pretty hyper-local, including granular views of high school sports.

According to GoLocalProv the site has had nearly 700,000 unique visitors in the past year with over 5 million page views. But is there the potential here for building a loyal audience for local online video news? Their early stats suggest some traction here. The company claims that in the first year, it has seen more than 70,000 people return more than 200 times.

To their credit the site seems to have taken the task of building a local online news business seriously. A large number of local advertisers are apparent on the site. The mobile execution is excellent, with a mobile ready Web app version that even has a large display ad for a local business. But if video is going to be a key draw, they will need more of it. The nightly six-minute synopsis is a good start. The newscasters put video behind some of the text stories and put on air some of the columnists from the site. They even seem to have recruited some veteran TV talent, including a (presumably retired?) weatherman that I remember from local TV news back in the 1980s when I lived in Providence.

Ultimately, this looks like a local media project that has learned a few things from a decade of repeated failures to create digital businesses out of local news coverage. Anyone remember Microsoft Sidewalk? These kids, with their good hair (and lots of it) have a better shot.  
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