August 8, 2009

Does independent and local media matter, anymore? Re: Huffington Post takes on local web sites in Chicago, Denver.

Does independent and/or local media matter, anymore? Is it worth supporting?

Huffington Post continues to go after local media markets.

People really don’t care about local, independent business. They think they do. But this morning, a colleague at a green-minded, progressive business emailed myself and 20 leading green, LOHAS-style colleagues and said, hey, Huff Post is starting a Colorado edition, if you want to blog for them contact ’em! My response:

Thanks, T. As a longtime colleague, you may realize their entry into Colorado represents competition for independent, Colorado-based media for Colorado ad dollars.

K’s kindly invited me on board. I look forward to meeting with them, and have offered some small advice on the name (as of now, they’re calling it Huff Post ‘Denver,’ which may not fully engage Boulder, Ft. Collins etc). It’s exciting seeing them come to town–I’ve been blogging for Huff Post for a year, and I love working with ’em. We’ll see how it goes—I look forward to a cooperative rather than competitive relationship. ~ Yours, Way

Now, as mentioned I’ve already been invited to blog for the local edition, and I’ll do so—if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and there’s no way elephant can stand up to Huff Post. I’ve also been blogging, unpaid, for their national edition for over a year (in fact, my latest went up last night at 10 pm) and have enjoyed it thoroughly. They may not edit half as much as big media should—I don’t seem to even have a human contact over there, these days, making me promote my Huff Post articles less via elephant, twitter and facebook since they’re unevenly promoted over there.

But still, well I’m a huge fan of Arianna, and feel like Huff Post is one of the few media (old or new) to really get how to rock the new media world. Republican or Democrat, love ’em or hate ’em, agree or disagree, Huff Post is playing major league ball.

But when they come into local media world, as they’ve done in Chicago and NY, and now Colorado (they haven’t tackled California, strangely, yet, or Texas—some of the other big media markets) they ain’t playing nice. Pick on someone your own size, they told us in kindergarten.

Independent media has declined by more than 50% in the last 60 years. My idol Arianna Huffington may yet have one more claim to fame—indie media killer. Indie media was called, by no less than Jefferson, essential to a well-functioning democracy. The “fourth estate” is meant to be a watchdog, not a lapdog. And since Huff Post has begun taking on investment, and by all signs may continue to do so, Arianna’s control may wane. It certainly will fall into other hands over the next 10 years, in any case, as she may look to retire (or run for Governator again, who knows with her!).

elephantjournal.com and I were honored to be included in an independent media panel, hosted by BIBA, on the downtown Boulder Pearl Street Mall recently. To my left: Tom Brock, founder of Boulder Magazine and Home & Garden. To my right, Stew Sallo of Boulder Weekly, and Sam Fuqua of KGNU.

Update: a great video via Rocky Thompson for BIBA!

BIBA LocalFest – Media from Rocky Thompson on Vimeo.


Given that national media is now consolidated, and nearly all owned by just a few different companies, local media may well be the last bastion of a free press. In Boulder, we have Boulder Magazine, Boulder Weekly, KGNU, elephant, a few other smaller pubs. Nationally owned publications, or franchises, include The Daily Camera, Colorado Daily, ReDirect Guide (which I dig), Edible Front Range (which I love), The Onion (which I LOL)….and now Huff Post.

Who do you love? Who you gonna support with your ad dollars? Gaiam, a huge LOHAS/yoga/green business that I’ve worked with for seven years (but has only occasionally advertised), has made its answer clear. No ads on independent, Colorado-based elephant—even though our traffic, twitter and Fbook followings are strong, and growing fast. Below, an ad on Huffington Post. Click it if you’d like to support ’em.

Now, look, I realize nothing’s going to stop big companies from picking on little companies where money is to be made. This is Capitalism, folks, love it or leave it. And I can’t blame big green companies from advertising with big media companies, particularly companies as cool (and I mean that) as Huff Post. I just wish that advertisers would also take care to support the demographic-appropriate little guy, too—especially when the little guy is playing AAA ball, and may make the majors soon enough, and will remember who helped him along the way.


Waylon “near-future Green Talk Show host” Lewis

Waylon Lewis is the founder of elephantjournal.com

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