I started QuirkLocal a little over a year ago with the idea that we could make news and social media better. We could do better than newsprint, while at the same time creating a tamer, more civil place for local discussions.
The history of the last 15 years of Internet media has been one of centralization and extraction. Thousands of local media companies have been replaced with a few big players, and local businesses are out-competed by what are effectively massive logistics companies that operate at global scale.
Today, every search for a product or service you make on the internet, with each click, lands you farther and farther away from a local business. Every click is monetized and sends money outside the community to national and international businesses.
There’s no room for local businesses to compete, there’s no money for local media.
But I know it can be different, because it used to be different. Go back forty years in almost any community and you will find local newspapers operating as a central hub for news, commerce and discussion. Businesses advertised their wares, and this ad revenue paid journalists and editors to round up all the news that was fit to print. Citizens could write in to share their topical opinions, the classifieds provided a place to buy or sell their stuff, and real estate listings let you know what the Johnson’s were selling their place for.
The local newspaper created a virtuous cycle, keeping money in the community, creating civic engagement, and promoting local businesses, and this generated revenue to keep the paper thriving.
But these days almost every function of the local newspaper has been sectioned off by a single company that operates at a national or global scale. Angi, Zillow, Google, Facebook, Craigslist, and more provide many of the services that the local newspaper once did. But the bizarre thing is that many of these services are fundamentally local. Real estate markets are mostly local, so are classifieds, much of what still takes place on Facebook in my community are group discussions focused on local issues.
But the web just provided a much more compelling platform than newsprint. It was searchable, dynamic, live, unedited, sometimes unfiltered and exciting. It’s not hard to see how local newspapers lost this long battle of attrition. Their technology platform was hundreds of years old.
QuirkLocal is a reboot of the local media landscape that provides a re-usable, licenseable media platform that can bring all of these fundamentally local activities back together to recreate that virtuous economic cycle. Don’t call it a newspaper, because it’s not, it’s something new and exciting, and I cannot wait to see how the idea evolves as we grow.