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March Social Hour: Niche news blogs in Portland – and free munchies


What does it take to run a successful niche news blog in Portland? That’s the topic for Digital Journalism Portland’s March Social Hour. If you think you know the answer — or you just want to take part in the conversation — come join us on March 22 at The Canvas in NW Portland.

The Oregonian News Network will be sponsoring food for the event and hosting a brief discussion of its upcoming networked journalism project.

The Oregonian News Network is potentially a very big deal for journalism in Portland. It’s funded by J-Lab as part of a national experiment in connecting small blogs with major news organizations in the same region. This is its second year. The Seattle Times was a participant last year. So far its award-winning project has partnered with 39 sites.

Cornelius Swart was recently picked to lead the Oregonian’s efforts. (Disclosure: He’s a friend of mine.) Swart is the former publisher of the Portland Sentinel, which he closed last year after a four-year run.

During that time, the paper garnered awards and accolades for its aggressive enterprise reporting in North and Northeast Portland. In 2009 its blog was ranked 10th-most-influential in the city, one tier higher than But in the end, the failing economy, the advertising market and Swart’s desire to expand beyond a single neighborhood proved to be too much.

“It was very hard to hold a cultural identity and common interest for a readership that broad,” he wrote in an extensive, very transparent analysis of the paper’s demise. “More importantly it was hard to find advertisers who wanted to draw from that population. […] As a publisher I soon discovered that there was no “sheltered” advertising market in community news. It’s relentless competition from the smallest paper all the way up to the big boys.”

I think that’s a great summation of one the main obstacles to running a successful niche news blog in Portland. Part of that competition comes from existing old school brick-and-mortar community papers which have sucked a lot of air out of the ad market. But that’s not to say news-oriented blogs can’t succeed. The Portlander is trying one model, Neighborhood Notes is trying another, and Portland Afoot is trying something completely different.

What else is keeping niche news blogs from flourishing in Portland?

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Date: March 22, 2011
Time: 7 p.m.
The Canvas Art Bar & Bistro
1800 NW Upshur Street, Portland

Photo by pseudoxx.


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