What the right balance of all those ingredients is… well, hyperlocal scientists are still swirling beakers to find out. We felt we were on the right path at Patch, where the main ingredient is full-time, professional editors who live and work locally. Nothing replaces the trust, good will, and accruable local knowledge you get from embedding people in the communities they cover.

Speaking of people, I guarantee for all their algorithms and data-scraping, the braintrust at Journatic doesn’t think it can do compelling content without talented human beings. In fact, ironically, what they’re up against—what everyone in hyperlocal is trying to solve—is the basic paradox at the heart of online journalism: when people produce content, they’re expensive; when they consume it, they’re cheap bastards who want everything for free.

Ultimately the journalism that everyone wants can only come from a business model
that works. If Journatic thinks it’s got that model, let them prove it. Or die trying.

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Brian Farnham is the former editor in chief of Patch