“The future doesn’t belong to the insta-chains. It belongs to the independents,” wrote Owens. “Like the newspaper publishers of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, they are building real businesses, forging alliances in their communities, defining the future of journalism, serving their communities and building the foundation of long-term profitable businesses. They are doing it through hard work, with little to no investment capitol and showing real progress.”
The post followed discussion last Tuesday at the Street Fight Summit about best practices for scaling hyperlocal networks, in which Patch’s Warren Webster and Main Street Connect’s Carll Tucker defended their companies’ approaches and traded a few barbs in the process.
Tucker, who believes that he has come upon a scalable formula for hyperlocal profitability, responded to Owens’ post last week, setting off a lively debate in the posts’ comments section over whether indies or scaled networks really have the upper hand when it comes to profitability.
“Hey Howard, Why do you keep bashing me when I do nothing but sing your praises? asked Tucker. “If every community in America could have a Howard Owens, the future of news would be dandy. Alas, America has 6000 communities and maybe 6 Howard Owens-caliber local publishers — maybe 12 — you get the point. Main Street Connect wants to deliver high-quality profitable community news to the 5994 communities you can’t get to.”
Owens responds: ” I completely reject the notion that I am somehow unique or special or that 6,000 other people can’t accomplish what I have done. What I’ve accomplished so far is not anything magical (nor is it yet anything all that great). It’s simply a matter of common sense and a willingness to work hard. Anybody willing to put those two ingredients in the same stew will have equal success. And so the rub is — insta-chains are a threat to thousands of potential indie publishers; they can do damage to many locally based news orgs while those start ups are still in the cradle, and to contemplate that makes me sad.”
Other top indie publishers join the thread and chime in as well, including West Seattle Blog’s Tracy Record and The Sacramento Press’ Ben Ilfeld.