Last week I met the founders of a new local daily online newspaper called The Daily Darien. I love new businesses and learning about how industries are dealing with change. Everyone knows that print newspapers are in decline. That's why my town's two weekly print papers have online editions and use email and Twitter to keep their readers up to date. But it's fascinating to see online-only start-ups whose owners think can stand alone as local papers.
Competition is good, but how many newspapers can my little town of 20,000 residents support? We now have six -- two print and four online: The Darien Times (in print and online), The Darien News (print and online), the Darien Patch (online) and The Daily Darien (online). Newspapers are getting like banks! How many can our little town support? Time will tell. (Full disclosure, I was a columnist for the Darien Times for 13 years.) Combine this with the fact that our surrounding cities have papers that are also competing for readers and advertising dollars. These include the Stamford Advocate, the Norwalk Hour and New York City's Post, Times, Daily News and Wall Street Journal. They all appear in print and electronic versions.
I've often thought that local news, advertising and search are the last untapped areas of the internet. Truly, finding small local businesses online is really hard. Half the time, I resort to the print classifieds or the Yellow Pages out of frustration. But with online newspapers, maybe all this will change.
The thing I liked about The Daily Darien was the intelligence of the management team. They gave a great presentation, demonstrating how they would make it easy to keep up on local news through their website, not only in our own town, but also surrounding towns. It will be easier to get the local news and information about local businesses that we want to read. I believe this start-up has a chance to make good on its promises because The Daily Darien is not alone. The owners have started similar online newspapers in neighboring towns. The set up reminds me of Gannett. And they are recruiting locals to act as advisers to tell them what they need to do.
But I mostly believe that the paper has a chance because the CEO, Carll Tucker, is really good at putting words together. He is clearly very intelligent. I tried to remember some of the great things he said, like "newspapers have stopped listening." "You can't have community without communication." "A free press has to be a profitable press."
He has a great team, including bright, internet-savvy tech and sales people, seasoned reporters, and Jane Bryant Quinn, who has been a financial writer for Newsweek.
I'm going to keep looking at The Daily Darien and compare it to their online competition. It will be interesting to see what happens. The good news is that folks in Darien can't complain that they don't have up-to-the minute local news coverage online.