Hyper-Local News MyNC Bites the Dust Paves Way for a NEW NBC 17

Whew!  I was worried the hyperlocal concept was completely going away.

Today, my former employer, NBC 17 began making changes to their brand, removing the MyNC branding throughout their social media sites and on their official website in favor of just utilizing NBC 17.  At first, I was disappointed.  No, wait…I was extremely disappointed.  Then, after receiving word that there will still be opportunities for true hyperlocal coverage, I began to relax…a little.  Let me explain.

MyNC was the brainchild of an amazing team of individuals at NBC 17 lead by former General Manager, Barry Leffler who has since moved on to be Managing Partner and CEO of WCHL in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where I have no doubt he’ll be taking the hyperlocal concept to a whole other level.

Barry along with my former boss, Maryann Balbo (who has also moved on to greater heights as the Director of Digital Sales with the highly successful St. Petersburg Times in Florida) and several other key players at NBC 17 realized there was a void in the coverage of Triangle local news.  Their competitors had longevity and “breaking news” going for them.  NBC 17 didn’t really have a niche…until MyNC. 

I was hired in July of 2007.  As a member of the Community Outreach team, I was part of this ground-breaking project that brought our station to a whole new dimension of news coverage.  My role was to secure User Generated Content (UGC) from members of the community while at the same time providing my own editorial content whenever the need arose.  The best part of the job was managing a team of community partners and watching their use of UGC grow, flourish, and used on broadcast.  It really was an amazing experience.

If you are paying attention to the direction of local news coverage across the country, you will notice that local news isn’t as it used to be.  The idea that a station would hire anchors and reporters that would stay through retirement or even that would become “popular” with their viewers, revered and respected, or both, is long gone.  Look at what’s happened in the last two years alone in markets like Boston where highly respected journalists like sports icon Bob Lobel, Joyce Kulhawik (former arts & entertainment reporter at WBZ Boston), or Randy Price (formerly of WHDH and now with WCVB) have either been fired or have resigned and moved on (to a competitor).  Add obvious elements like the accessibility of the internet and the advancement of social media sites (specifically Twitter), there’s a whole new way for consumers to digest their news… as well as a whole new way to create it. 

Media outlets have to compete with the latest and greatest.  Many have opted for Facebook and Twitter accounts, which is smart.  Some have entered into the hyperlocal arena with success.  Just look at the Chicago Tribune and its TribLocal site where they encourage a hybrid of reporting from trained journalists AND citizen journalists.  That’s just one example. 

Boston(dot)com has gotten into the act with its “Your Town” brand.  Granted, it doesn’t contain user-generated content but it does provide some value for the local communities it serves.  What I really like about this site is that it dives further into the neighborhood concept listing many of Boston’s neighborhoods and the local news coverage for each.

Bottom line, with technology continuing to advance at an unbelievable rate, media outlets must also keep up or they will lose their audience to other news sources that are.

The MyNC project was a HUGE undertaking with the intent to be the source for truly local news aggregated from traditional news sources mixed in with community-posted news and information.  It was…and is…brilliant!  I caveat this by saying that there must also be a revenue source that drives the product too or there will be failure.  Unfortunately, with the economy the way it is it’s no wonder that many hyperlocal news outlets are fizzling out before their time.  

However, I am also of the philosophy that it’s not impossible to be successful at establishing a well-respected and well-rounded hyperlocal news site.  I believe there are ways to build those revenue models that can help to sustain them.  I also agree with Hyperlocal Blogger when he says to truly be successful at this medium you must start from the bottom and work your way up. 

In a sense, that’s what NBC 17…or rather, corporate parent Media General, did.  Unfortunately, when the market took a significant dive in 2008 so didn’t the advertising revenue.  As such, the MyNC product the way it was built was no more.  But, that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way and it doesn’t mean that the primary source of revenue has to be advertising dollars either.

There was an interesting article in AdWeek yesterday that, for the most part, talked of statistics from a study done on the demise of traditional news media.  The headline reads:

55% Foresee Doom for Traditional Media

But, its the subheading underneath that really speaks volumes.

Old models continue to lose popularity with the masses.

Of course they do!  Media outlets have got to step up to the plate and create models that their subscribers, viewers, audience members will want to support.  If they don’t, as I said before, they will lose out to the competition.

One final example, I look at our local paper here – the Garner Citizen.  They are on the right path.  The paper was started by a true Garner citizen that wanted to see truly local coverage of all things Garner, something the competition wasn’t doing.  Rather than complain about it, he decided to publish his own paper (OK, maybe he complained about it at first.).  

Executive Editor Barry Moore together with his sister, launched their first issue of the Garner Citizen in 2007.  Three years later it is not only going strong but has won dozens of awards.  What’s unique about their paper is that they use a combination of traditional reporting and citizen journalism (they even list their Citizen Journalists on their staff page) incorporating social media to encourage and build their community while “getting the news out” to the masses.  It’s genius!  In the coming months, they’ll launch more video-driven pieces as well.  The best part – it’s all about Garner, North Carolina and ONLY Garner, North Carolina.

With MyNC, NBC 17 was on to something BIG, in my opinion.  It is my hope that The Powers That Be continue to dive into a strategy that includes the hyperlocal model as I continue to wish the folks at NBC 17 well.  I sincerely hope my friends and former colleagues there will enjoy successful employment for years to come too.

For more on my thoughts on the direction of media , see my post – “Paid Content IS the Future”.

If you really want to know what’s going on in the medium, be sure to check out Steve Safran’s blog Lost Remote.  He’s a smart guy who really pays attention to where the news is heading.

4 Responses to “Hyper-Local News MyNC Bites the Dust Paves Way for a NEW NBC 17”
  1. john jj says:

    mync failed because it was big media guised as local and nobody drank the kool aid. Sorta like drupal projects that come around and non techs want everything but get all bummed out when they realise its more then just turning on the module

    • lasullivan says:

      Actually, MyNC did very well in select demographics. One of the problems was that it was such a HUGE project that required a lot of resources at a time when the economy began its downhill slide. I truly believe if we had started out smaller, we would’ve had a lot more success with it.

      I know my own contacts in the territory in which I was assigned to loved that they could post their own news (stories, pictures, video) on the site for their nonprofits, civic groups, etc. because by doing so, they were posting on an accredited news site AND sometimes their news was used for story ideas, follow up, even on-air segments. To this day, I still hear comments from some of those same people like, “It’s too bad MyNC went away. It was what set NBC 17 apart from the other news in the area.”

      What the mainstream media fails to realize is that if they spend some time truly thinking outside of the proverbial box and work WITH their local communities, they might actually find some advocacy and make connections that they wouldn’t otherwise have made. Problem is, many of the local mainstream media outlets don’t think like that. They think connecting on Twitter and Facebook is still enough or that “email your storm photos” to us is still the best way to gain user generated content. In my opinion, that’s just the wrong way to go about engaging the audience. There’s so much more that could be done.

      So…MyNC didn’t fail because of “big media”, it failed because it was a HUGE idea at the wrong time. That’s really the gist of it.

      But, I do sincerely thank you for your comment! 🙂

  2. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the positive feedback, Lisa! It’s always nice when our commitment to local news is recognized.

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