A look at the carnage of Cowtown websites reveals a competitive field wherein so many struggle – and so few succeed – to make a dime off of the democratization of the written word in the digital age.
The Kansas City Star’s Internet fortunes are most likely due to the paper they litter this town with every morning. Whereas smaller online publishers hope and pray that their sites go “viral” and Internet linking, liking and recommending offer a no-cost alternative to capture the interest of online denizens. So far, there have been some worthy entries into this market, a few busts, interesting new profit models and other disappointments.
Let’s take a look at some of the more noteworthy local Internet hopefuls:
The KC Tribune is currently offline and “undergoing maintenance” much to the disappointment of so many local news watchers. The main reason behind the KC Tribune’s decline wasn’t just the sad death of publisher and reporter Tom Bogdon but also the impact of the Great Recession on the local ad market. Additionally, the web publishing system used by the KC Tribune was complex and required monthly payments at one point. KC Tribune was one of the most serious online Kansas City News efforts, and at one point it really resembled something that might have competed with the Star or the Pitch but their once a week publishing schedule simply didn’t satisfy the appetite for local news denizens despite some amazing work from local news legend Bogdon.
Next up, The KC Free Press was pretty serious for awhile and they seemed to be employing an advertorial model that doesn’t fly in print but seems perfect for the Internet. Sadly, this year a slew of staff departures, little local interest in online advertising and content that didn’t really draw much if any Interest worked to its disadvantage. To its credit KCFP still standing but has been an overall disappointment with its performance in the ad market and a lack new add-ons and ventures to its site.
Sadly, it seems that local fame doesn’t always translate into web hits either. Joe Miller gave The KC Downtowner the old college try but decided instead to go back to college. To be fair to Miller, it seemed that after a contentious exit with the Funkhouser Administration his heart wasn’t really in local politics or news. Remember that Miller filed some really great local columns here on KCC but concluded his writing relationship with a quizzical string of Grateful Dead posts that seemed to reflect that his personal interests didn’t really involve KC Proper. Still, after he’s finished with his Master’s degree it would be nice to see the very talented guy writing in KC again in some shape or form.
In terms of success, this post would be incomplete if I didn’t note mention