I’m recently become semi-obsessed with loosely networked magazines and blogs. This is not a new business phenomenon, for sure (see Weblogs, Inc., Gothamist, even Coffee News), but I think there’s something inherently awesome about repeating a niche model that works in one environment in as many others as makes sense. And in the last month or so I’ve encountered a few companies operating interesting networks in – much to my surprise – the local publishing space.
BlankSlate has carved out a cool niche not as a publisher, but as a partner to local bloggers, who stand to benefit from BlankSlate’s Wordpress expertise and dedicated ad sales team. Local blogs are a natural fit for real estate ads, and this is where most of BlankSlate’s energies seem focused:
This strikes me as really smart. Independent bloggers want to focus on content and audience growth, not tech and ad sales, but then again they can hardly afford to ignore those aspects of their business. And the formula apparently works for traditional publishers too: BlankSlate is powering a handful of local blogs for the Times Review newspaper group on Long Island.
Edible Communities, meanwhile, publishes a large and growing roster of local food magazines in partnership with local licensees all over the country. You buy in, they get you up and running, and voilá – you’re the go-to source for local and sustainable food information in your neck of the woods. Local advertisers (esp. restaurants, food producers, and importers) seem to love the targeted, monied demographic, and large advertisers even run ads across the whole family of publications. Plus Edible does a great job of maintaining editorial quality across their roster, which can’t be as easy as it looks.
The only weakness I see in their current model is technology: the online platform they offer local publishers is somewhat outdated, so the best Edible web sites have been built independently. But I respect Edible’s approach, which seems to put a lot of control in the hands of their licensees, some of whom are even branching out into book publishing.
While that may not be a highly lucrative niche, it does connect Issue Media with municipalities and local governments looking to attract new businesses and residents, and it looks like they’ve been hired to create and manage custom publications for a host of them, like this one for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporatation:
Know any other innovative publishing networks? By all means let me know.