Categorizing news sites: feedback for Michele

Michele McLellan‘s got a post about the types of news organizations she sees emerging from the ashes of the newspaper/traditional media business that’s worth some feedback. Michele says that one type of site is the big ones—such as MinnPost, Voice of San Diego, and The Texas Tribune, and what those folks need the most is a viable revenue model.

Second category: Local news entrepreneurs–her examples are My Ballard, Capitol Hill Blog, Oakland Local. Their value? Figuring out local news for the rest of us.

Third: Engaged community sites like TheRapidian (and Oakland Local, she adds).  Lessons: How community works to grow audience/traffic/revenue.

Fourth: BargainBabe and Elaine Helm Norton’s NW Navy News,which are geographic, but really more about a mindset(deals) or a life stage(miitary).

Fifth-the (short-lived) personal sites. Someone’s baby.

I think Michele’s categories are pretty good, but I think I’d square it a little differently.

Many of the big sites really come off like the New Corporates–they are based on traditional news organization structures, they launch with offices, investors, and big budgets, and they see news as something they publish and others read and perhaps amend. These sites seem like they achieve sustainability by playing on an old school network of big foundations comfortable funding big projects, and it’s a bit like dancing across the ice floes–when those big grants stop, will these big sites sink? (Everyone is waiting with baited breath in the Bay area to see if the Warren Hellman project is going to fit into this model.)

The second set are the Hybrids–sites that blend news and community. Oakland Local, BaristaNet, Sacramento Press all fit into this mix, IMHO. These sites value traditional journalism but are very comfortable with blogging, and also comfortable with the social media ecosystem (ie they don’t always need to be the destination).

Third are the verticals–and in there I’d include topic aggregators as well as niches. So Bargain babe sits right next to Civil Eats and Ethicurean (food access focused news blogs), for example, along with lots of sports new sites, and so on.

Fourth are the grassroots. These sites are all about community and reported stories–and even blog posts–matter less than forums and discussions. These sites spend little on content–and often are determinedly non-commercial-like the Rockridge, CA community forums.

Fifth are the soloists.  These are a fascinating crew, because the all reserve the right to please themselves first, a view that can make their sites both wonderful and infuriating. Examples that spring to mind instantly are A Better Oakland, with its community of passionate readers and specific city government focus and  InBerkley, which RSS pioneer Dave Winer did with some local residents till they found reason to part ways.

Michele, what do you think of this list?