As local enthusiasts, laid-off journalists and established news publishers try to replace disappearing local newspapers with community-specific websites, Darian Shirazi, founder of US real-time local news aggregator Fwix, thinks he can help.
Fwix runs 80 US city-based newsfeeds bringing together pro-amateur blogs and professional content and reaches some nine million unique users a month — and on Monday evening it launches in 12 UK cities including London, Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham and, incongruously, the town of Andover in Hampshire. The 22-year-old former Facebook developer Shirazi told paidContent:UK ahead of the UK launch that he’s already identified an average of 45 local blogs and news sources for each UK city feed and he’s willing to share ad revenue with each of them…
— UK hyperlocal raid: “When I look at the UK I see a lot of local media but people are struggling to find content that’s written by small bloggers — the extent of local media in an aggregated form is from Thisisbristol.co.uk or those types of sites. So the focus is to find those really good bloggers and show people what’s really happening in these areas.” Readers of the Fwix via web, mobile or Twitter, or iPhone app can browse the news and suggest additions themselves.
— Where’s the money?: “We have a few ideas (for monetisation) and they usually revolve around advertising,” Shirazi says, adding that while there are opportunities in local ads — there are even some US ad networks on board — but he wants to get the content right first. Bloggers aren’t asked whether they want snippets of and links to their work to be aggregated, but Shirazi confirms: “Any solution that we come up with will compensate the bloggers themselves.” The company raised $2.75 million (£1.7 million) in VC funds from BlueRun Ventures last month.
— Old news too: A browse of the US Fwix feeds shows that many have a fair share of newspaper and magazine content as well as grassroots bloggers. Shirazi says: “The professional media sources, we still publish content from them because some of it’s very good. They cover crime and big local stories very well, but some things that are niche and more interesting don’t get covered at all.”
— Is it local enough?: Fwix comes at this problem from a city-wide perspective. But as I said about the London Evening Standard earlier this year, there isn’t much that unites people from opposite ends of the capital — people want news about their boroughs and neighbourhoods. Sites like Hophive give a postcode-relevant aggregation and Fwix doesn’t seem to have the same hyperlocal relevance — but it aims to link to the best local content out there, so we shall watch and wait.