Last week I attended the launch party for several new online news communities, all owned by Mainstreet Connect. The party reminded me of the media parties I used to attend when I worked in advertising. (No, I'm not as old as the Mad Men people.) It was beautifully catered, and we heard good, short speeches. The event hearkened back to the heyday of print media, even though it was for new media. As I nibbled my hors d'oeuvres and sipped my sangria, I kept wondering what these new community news sites were going to do for us and if they would be as successful as their founders believed.
But the next day, I was summoned for jury duty. Out of a roomful of 45 people, one other person and I were the only ones reading printed newspapers to pass the time. A handful were reading books. But most of the room was glued to a screen -- either the giant TV at the front of the room or the tiny screens held in the hands of about one third or the prospective jurors. Yes. We are in the age of the screen and the instant download of data and news.
That made me realize that Mainstreet Connect is probably on the right track. They're using economies of scale to create a network of online news communities. But will the initial traffic turn into loyal viewers that interact with advertisers and generate revenue? I'm particularly interested in The Daily Darien because I live in Darien, CT. But I'm also interested because as a business planner and consultant, I like observing how different startups behave. I like trying to figure out how their marketing works and how they've positioned themselves in the marketplace.
The founder, Carll Tucker, clearly has a vision and the media and advertising experience and management team to make a successful business. He can see what I saw in the jury waiting room. Younger people are not reading newspapers. The Daily Darien is exploiting that. But their print-based competitors are too. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. Which competitor will come out on top - The Daily Darien, the Darien Patch, The Darien Times or the Darien News-Review (the oldest of the lot)? Can the Daily Darien discover the weaknesses the other papers have and exploit that in their online-only environment? Do they realize that many of the residents of Darien are actually the type of people who still enjoy print newspapers? (I've seen the statistics.) Upscale, educated, northeastern. We read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal., but our kids don't.
What do you think? You can see The Daily Darien at: www.thedailydarien.com.