“We are very reasonable about our expenses. We have to be. Video costs more to produce,” he said. “Part of the battle of making any advertising work to sustain a business is to make sure the business doesn’t cost too much money.” Krackehl said he didn’t want to expand “like crazy if we weren’t sure it made sense… If it works here in Fairfield County, it doesn’t mean it is going to work everywhere.”

Winnowing the scrum

Nash said the media saturation in Fairfield County may be at its peak right now, but he’s doubtful the region can keep supporting this many local news outlets long term.

“There is more supply than demand,” he said.

Hersam Acorn’s digital advertising revenue “doubles every year,” Nash noted, but he’s quick to point out the company’s main source of revenue is still declining print advertising. And lest we forget the January Patch layoffs that thinned the ranks of its paid full-time editorial staff in Connecticut to just six people for 67 local sites; at its height, each site had its own editor.

Success in a coveted media market like Fairfield County is no guarantee for other markets, now or in the future. The industry learned from Patch that large-scale hyperlocal doesn’t work. The local news landscape, its sources of revenue, and its fickle audiences are in constant flux. “Winning” may only be possible through the deliberate tailoring of news to smaller areas and the acceptance of more modest profit margins.

For now though, Fairfield County news consumers and advertisers get to reap the benefits of all this media experimentation.

“I would argue there only appears to be room for everybody,” Nash said. “Call me back in a year and we’ll see.”

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Marie K. Shanahan is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut who researches trends in online commenting and local news engagement. She worked for 17 years as a reporter and online editor at The Hartford Courant and one year as a regional editor at Patch. Contact her at marie.shanahan@uconn.edu or on Twitter @mariekshan.