Owens, Tucker Spar Over Indies' Profitability | Street Fight

Owens, Tucker Spar Over Indies’ Profitability

Owens, Tucker Spar Over Indies’ Profitability

Last week, The Batavian’s Howard Owens penned a post on his personal blog about why independent hyperlocal sites were better positioned to be profitable long-term than scaled hyperlocal networks.

“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.

Read the entire comments chain here.

4 thoughts on “Owens, Tucker Spar Over Indies’ Profitability

  1. “Hey Howard, Why do you keep bashing me when I do nothing but sing your praises?”

    Well, a couple months ago in this very publcation Carll Tucker said:

    “And I went online and there was not a single community news site that I
    would have characterized as being a satisfactory replacement for a great
    community newspaper, anywhere in the country. I couldn’t find a single
    one. I looked and looked and looked.”

    Those words  . . .

  2. Howard Owens writes:  “insta-chains are a threat to thousands of potential indie publishers.” So? It’s called competition and free-market capitalism. Are you saying there is something inherently virtuous about so-called “indie publishers” and something inherently vicious about the hoary coinage “insta-chains”? This is the same whine in new bottles. Years ago, mom-and-pop video rentailers tried to demonize Blockbuster. Why? Because at the time it was already big, expanding rapidly and luring customers from the less enterprising mom-and-pops who couldn’t figure out how to respond. If there’s not room for everyone, blame it on the consumer’s making a choice or on your own limitations. Please do not blame legitimate competition. 

  3. Howard Owens writes:  “insta-chains are a threat to thousands of potential indie publishers.” So? It’s called competition and free-market capitalism. Are you saying there is something inherently virtuous about so-called “indie publishers” and something inherently vicious about the hoary coinage “insta-chains”? This is the same whine in new bottles. Years ago, mom-and-pop video rentailers tried to demonize Blockbuster. Why? Because at the time it was already big, expanding rapidly and luring customers from the less enterprising mom-and-pops who couldn’t figure out how to respond. If there’s not room for everyone, blame it on the consumer’s making a choice or on your own limitations. Please do not blame legitimate competition. 

    1. It’s not legitimate competition.  

      Big corporations, well-funded start ups are not competing on quality of content, nor on better service to advertisers or any of the other aspects that would differentiate businesses for consumers and customers.Independent business owners — the life blood of any community in any industry — live off what they make and must remain profitable to survive.

      The insta-chains, etc. can go months even years of sustained unprofitable operations.  They can spend the independent into the ground.  There is nothing legitimate about this type of competition.

      “Are you saying there is something inherently virtuous about so-called “indie publishers” and something inherently vicious about the hoary coinage “insta-chains”? ”

      Yes. I am.  Without a doubt.

      And the indie video stores were absolutely right about Blockbuster.

      Small, locally owned businesses are absolutely vital (statistically validated fact here, if you care to do the research) to the economic health of local communities.

      Blockbuster didn’t compete on a neven playing field with the locally owned shops. They undercut the local shops on price, they got tax subsidies to expand (from clueless local governments, mostly), they used greater capitalization not to necessarily create a better product than the ma-and-pops, but to spend a ton on marketing.  There was nothing inherently better about Blockbuster from a consumer perspective than the independent stores they killed.  They just had more cash to spend on their uncompetitive practices.

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4 thoughts on “Owens, Tucker Spar Over Indies’ Profitability

  1. “Hey Howard, Why do you keep bashing me when I do nothing but sing your praises?”

    Well, a couple months ago in this very publcation Carll Tucker said:

    “And I went online and there was not a single community news site that I
    would have characterized as being a satisfactory replacement for a great
    community newspaper, anywhere in the country. I couldn’t find a single
    one. I looked and looked and looked.”

    Those words  . . .

  2. Howard Owens writes:  “insta-chains are a threat to thousands of potential indie publishers.” So? It’s called competition and free-market capitalism. Are you saying there is something inherently virtuous about so-called “indie publishers” and something inherently vicious about the hoary coinage “insta-chains”? This is the same whine in new bottles. Years ago, mom-and-pop video rentailers tried to demonize Blockbuster. Why? Because at the time it was already big, expanding rapidly and luring customers from the less enterprising mom-and-pops who couldn’t figure out how to respond. If there’s not room for everyone, blame it on the consumer’s making a choice or on your own limitations. Please do not blame legitimate competition. 

  3. Howard Owens writes:  “insta-chains are a threat to thousands of potential indie publishers.” So? It’s called competition and free-market capitalism. Are you saying there is something inherently virtuous about so-called “indie publishers” and something inherently vicious about the hoary coinage “insta-chains”? This is the same whine in new bottles. Years ago, mom-and-pop video rentailers tried to demonize Blockbuster. Why? Because at the time it was already big, expanding rapidly and luring customers from the less enterprising mom-and-pops who couldn’t figure out how to respond. If there’s not room for everyone, blame it on the consumer’s making a choice or on your own limitations. Please do not blame legitimate competition. 

    1. It’s not legitimate competition.  

      Big corporations, well-funded start ups are not competing on quality of content, nor on better service to advertisers or any of the other aspects that would differentiate businesses for consumers and customers.Independent business owners — the life blood of any community in any industry — live off what they make and must remain profitable to survive.

      The insta-chains, etc. can go months even years of sustained unprofitable operations.  They can spend the independent into the ground.  There is nothing legitimate about this type of competition.

      “Are you saying there is something inherently virtuous about so-called “indie publishers” and something inherently vicious about the hoary coinage “insta-chains”? ”

      Yes. I am.  Without a doubt.

      And the indie video stores were absolutely right about Blockbuster.

      Small, locally owned businesses are absolutely vital (statistically validated fact here, if you care to do the research) to the economic health of local communities.

      Blockbuster didn’t compete on a neven playing field with the locally owned shops. They undercut the local shops on price, they got tax subsidies to expand (from clueless local governments, mostly), they used greater capitalization not to necessarily create a better product than the ma-and-pops, but to spend a ton on marketing.  There was nothing inherently better about Blockbuster from a consumer perspective than the independent stores they killed.  They just had more cash to spend on their uncompetitive practices.

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Name *