From Indy Week
It started, as good ideas often do, in the back room of a bar. David Millsaps, a designer and web consultant in his mid-20s, brought together several other creative types at Mitch’s Tavern in 2007. The topic was the need for a Raleigh-focused online publication that could capture the city’s growing cool.
“You’ve got this downtown that’s just budding. Raleigh Times [Bar] had just opened. SparkCon [a collaborative downtown arts festival] was in its second year,” Millsaps says. “There was so much going on. I just thought, I want to have this website that everybody would check to find out about the coolest stuff in Raleigh.”
For five years New Raleigh delivered on its promise of a news and culture website with a distinct voice, and it garnered tens of thousands of readers. Fast forward to Jan. 2, 2013. “The time to stop publishing New Raleigh has come,” wrote Millsaps and editor Jedidiah Gant. [Disclosure: Gant occasionally writes for INDY Week.]
Three years ago, media analysts were calling community-driven websites (“hyperlocal” in media parlance) such as New Raleigh the trend to watch. And yet local websites haven’t filled the information void at the same rate newspapers have emptied it.
New Raleigh, like most local news sites, never found a way to translate its influence and readership into profit. The biggest reason is that community websites inherently restrict their ability to make money by catering to a smaller pool of readers than sites with national appeal. And what ad revenue remains on the table is further limited in part because Google and Facebook gobble it up. Other news sites such as Raleigh Public Record have tried to address the financial hurdles by incorporating themselves as nonprofits. But the bottom line is: There is simply not enough money to pay people to produce high-quality work.