Local News is at a Crossroads

Local news. For me, it evokes a certain vision of a few generations ago – a time when everyone got the newspaper on their porch and neighbors talked to each other.

During the 1960s, newspaper penetration was over 90%. By the 1990s it was under 50%. Today it is 25%.

More efficient ad-targeting from Google and Facebook has also cut severely into newspapers’ traditional classifieds ad-model. From 2000 to 2015, newspaper revenue fell from $60B to $20B.

The result is that newsrooms—especially local ones—have been decimated.

And the consequences are severe. Research from the FCC has found that the loss of local news has led to more corruption, worse schools, and less citizen engagement.


Today local news is much different.

It is hard to conjure much of a mental picture of local news today because it is so fragmented.

The interest is still there—72% of U.S. adults follow local news closely, according to Pew Research—but we get more of our news online, and much of that from mobile devices.

Today there are hundreds of sources we get tiny slivers of news from, including blogs, newsletters, hyperlocal news sites, and social media.

The amount of content is growing; it’s just not being coalesced or synthesized.

Our own research for has found a wide diversity of sources people turn to for local news (partial list shown to the right).


Citizen journalism—if we can call it that—is a distributed, uncoordinated effort. A neighbor might take pictures of a fire as it happens and share it to Instagram. As a result, it’s easy to see small local updates but harder than ever to get a comprehensive picture.

The goal of is to address this challenge, through a combination of new, user-generated content (UGC) in conjunction with natural language processing (NLP) to help organize existing content.

Here’s an overview: