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“Are community news sites and investors ready for each other?” Street Fight, Dec. 3, 2014“Why can’t local news attract investment?” journalism watcher Nikki Usher asks in a recent opinion piece for the Reynolds Journalism Institute, where she is a resident fellow. “If funders don’t pump money into local news, all of the innovation that’s happening in news will simply bypass the local level.

”Usher, who is an assistant professor in the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., is right that venture-capital and angel investors have been avoiding digital community news. But there’s no mystery about why. There are some profitable one-offs, but most investors aren’t interested in one-offs. They want to put their money in the possibility of a good-sized payoff. That will only come with community news that is part of a network. Up to recently, the most visible such network was Aol’s Patch, but its horrible decline (which burned hundreds of millions in the process) convinced many investors that community news — which had been repeatedly proffered as the next best thing in the “2.0” revolution on the Web — was fool’s gold.

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